Business leaders uncertain on immigration reform during Trump presidency

PEORIA – Businesses that rely on immigrant employees in any area of the labor spectrum need to be aware of legal rights as a new administration enters the White House – and vocal about the economic benefits of immigration reform.

Those were among the few concrete takeaways of a business-oriented immigration forum Monday that centered as much on the uncertainty of a Donald Trump presidency as the known.

“If nothing else, President-elect Trump has proven to be a blank slate on a lot of things,” said Maggie Sheely, Great Lakes region senior manager of congressional and public affairs with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, at the event hosted by the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Here, maybe there’s actually a chance at immigration reform,” Sheely said. “We haven’t heard him say anything about high-skilled immigration – we think that’s a good place to start.”

The Illinois Business Immigration Coalition sponsored the forum, focusing on the benefits of immigration reform and potential consequences of mass deportations as referenced by the Trump campaign during the lead-up to the election.

Successful reform could generate $1.5 trillion in economic gains for the country over a decade, reducing the national deficit by $1.2 trillion, according to a report by the Bipartisan Policy Center. Mass deportations, meanwhile, could cost the U.S. economy $2.6 trillion and eliminate 120,000 jobs in Illinois.

Dave Bender, co-chairman of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, said the figures inextricably link the economy with security and immigration issues.

“You have to have some kind of marriage between these issues,” Bender said.

Marketa Lindt, a national officer with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said it will be incumbent upon businesses to understand any possible changes to immigration law and to relate the potential consequences of proposed changes to lawmakers.

By Matt Buedel for Journal Star
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