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How Key Industries Influence Immigration Reform

by Lucas Eaves, published

Immigration reform is one of the biggest issues currently being addressed by the 113th Congress. The Senate is working on a bipartisan plan and discussion over reform is gaining momentum in the House.

With major economic consequences at stake, it is interesting to see how key industries influence immigration reform behind the scenes.

The initial bipartisan platform put forward by the Senate in January was built on four pillars: Tweet it: Tweet

  1. Create a path to citizenship contingent on border security.
  2. Create a better legal immigration system corresponding to the country's needs.
  3. Improve employment verifications.
  4. Improve future migration system especially regarding the need of agricultural and low-skilled workers.

As immigration reform will have a significant impact on the American economy, the industries most likely to be affected have been working on influencing the outcome.

Open Secrets, a nonprofit organization dedicated to tracking the influence of money in U.S. politics, recently released a report highlighting an increase in the number of lobbyists dedicated to the issue of immigration in 2012.

The report shows that the most active industry in favor of comprehensive immigration reform is the tech industry. Major companies like Microsoft, Intel, Facebook, and Hewlett-Packard are spending millions of dollars in lobbying activities. Tweet at @OpenSecretsDC: Tweet

At stake is the current cap on working visas for high-skilled workers, which is currently at 65,000 per year. This cap is highly criticized because of a shortage in the workforce, especially for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals.

The fourth pillar, which would allow for a more flexible system to employ low-skilled workers, can arguably be viewed as the result of the influence organizations like the Associated Builders & Contractors or the National Roofing Contractors Association have. These groups would greatly benefit from such reform.

If these two components of immigration reform are relatively uncontroversial, a path to citizenship will likely be subject to more negotiations before comprehensive reform can be adopted. Tweet the news: Tweet

The balance between giving citizenship to the millions of undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States and the contingent improvement of border security will be a highly contested topic for not only Republicans and Democrats, but private sector industries.

The crackdown on illegal immigration by the last two presidential administrations has benefited one sector in particular: the private prison sector. This industry is in charge of 16 percent of federal prisoners. These prisons certainly house a good share of the estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants who are incarcerated every year.

If immigration reform includes tougher rules for illegal aliens, the industry's profit will continue to rise. However, if the path to citizenship is made easier, this could mean the end of the golden goose.

The industry giants, Corrections Corporation of America, The GEO Group, and Management and Training Corp, have spent at least $45 million over the last decade in lobbying activities and political contributions at the state and federal level, according to AP. The final draft of the immigration reform will be an indicator of the success of these investments.

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