The election of Donald Trump presents a clean slate for the US to craft comprehensive immigration policies. That was one conclusion that panelists from a variety of political and professional backgrounds could agree on, during a discussion at the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce Mon.
“With a comprehensive immigration policy, which has been lacking for years and years and years, it needs to be overhauled. And in order to achieve economic security, we’re going to have to have a plan," Illinois Business Immigration Coalition Co-Chair Dave Bender said.
Bender also chairs the Logan County Republican Party. Joining him were Maggie Sheely, a senior manager of congressional and public affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Great Lakes Region; Rich Champ, a former pastor and director of partnership at Ignite Church Planting; and Marketa Lindt, a partner at Sidley Austin LLP and member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
While the president elect’s specific policies are unclear, Bender says he’s hopeful the president-elect will consider businesses' interests when it comes to developing comprehensive immigration reform. That optimism was shared by Maggie Sheely, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“With a businessman coming into the White House and putting business-oriented people into cabinet positions -- they might be a little bit more sympathetic, and maybe knowledgeable about what it takes to maintain a business, what it takes to grow a business,” Sheely said.
Sheely says a Hillary Clinton administration, on the other hand, would have been a continuation of the past eight years.
The U.S. Chamber's Great Lakes office works with about 300,000 companies and business associations. Sheely says of those, the "overwhelming majority" say they're struggling to fill vacancies in their workforce. She urged business owners to use their leverage -- think dollar signs -- to sway legislators, and ultimately, Trump himself.
"You have to talk billions of dollars. Get 20 CEOS from Caterpillar, Boeing, and other big companies in the room, and feed the ego," Sheely said. "Get in there and say 'this is what we're going for, this is where America is falling short, and this is where the rest of the world can fill in the gaps.'"
The Illinois Business Coalition says comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship would generate $1.5 trillion in economic gains. By contrast, it estimates mass deportation would cost the US $2.6 trillion.