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Businesses speak loudly in debate over immigration reform

The debate over immigration reform is heating up in the United States, and businesses are making sure their voices are heard. Business owners across nearly all industries are taking a stand on immigration reform, with some arguing that their businesses would be lost without immigrant workers.

As a self-proclaimed conservative Republican dairy farmer from Florida put it, "We cannot milk cows without Hispanic labor, period." Many other voices have emerged as well, and recently helped reach an agreement with labor groups about how to ensure that immigrants are still allowed to come to the country to work.

Immigration experts say this is a big change from 2007 when immigration reform failed in Congress. "Business has learned over these past five, six, seven years more and more that it needs to engage," said the president and chief executive of ImmigrationWorks USA, a coalition of pro-immigration groups.

Of course, different types of businesses want different things, and everything will have to be approved by the labor department, which may not come easy. For example, many agricultural business owners want a seasonal guest worker program that would allow farmers to more easily hire migrant workers.

On the other hand, technology businesses are fighting for a way for highly-skilled immigrant workers to stay in the United States after finishing school. Still yet, industries such as hotels, restaurants and dairy farms want a way for immigrants to fill less-desirable jobs year-round.

Ultimately, immigration experts say having businesses on board will likely give immigration reform more of a chance than it has had in the past.

"We had people screaming over illegal immigration, but they didn't have a clue over how their own lifestyle was dependent on these immigrants for food and hospitality," said the president and chief executive of ImmigrationWorks USA. "The people complaining seemed to be totally out of touch with how [the] economy works."

Source:, "Businesses emerge as force in immigration debate," Alana Semuels, Los Angeles Times, March 2, 2013

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