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GCP, others press for immigration reform

In keeping with the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s position on immigration reform, last week the GCP Advocacy Team traveled to Washington, D.C. with the U.S. Chamber and chamber partners in the Great Lakes region to advocate for immigration reform.

Over 600 travelers from industry, business, agriculture, the religious community, and grassroots organizations participated in the event.  Meetings focused on the House of Representatives, which has taken a piecemeal approach to reform by introducing multiple pieces of legislation covering separate policy items in each.

Although the topic of immigration reform has many facets, GCP has focused its efforts on increasing the number of high-skilled visas, known as H1-B visas and the creation of High Skilled Immigration Zones, which would allocate a block of visas to geographic areas experiencing high unemployment.

The advocacy effort has resulted in an increase of the number of visas within the Senate- passed bill, as well as an increase in the House committee’s version of this legislation. Collectively, GCP, along with the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, continues to pursue a strategy to include the High Skill Immigration Zone proposal either as stand-alone legislation or as an amendment to a bill once it comes to the floor for a vote. 

The turnout of supporters from a wide range of interests was impressive, but it remains to be seen if it will move the meter in terms of congressional action.

Based on conversations with Members of Congress, it appears there will be two windows of opportunity for action: prior to the end of the year, which seems unlikely due to the congressional calendar, or as part of the January/February deadlines for addressing the Continuing Resolution and Debt Limit increase.

With Congressional elections on the horizon, the likelihood of legislation moving decreases with each passing day.

Another factor to consider is whether House Republicans are willing to negotiate with the Senate and the President. It was made clear to attendees that the relationship between both chambers, as well as with the Administration, suffered significant damage as a result of the shutdown and debt ceiling debate. Consequently, significant movement may be delayed until after the 2016 presidential election.

In spite of these potential headwinds, GCP will continue to remain engaged and active on the issue.