The business community was instrumental in defeating an Arizona
birthright-citizenship bill and passing a Utah guest-worker program,
suggesting it could be a key force on immigration reform.
The opposite fortunes of two sets of immigration bills this week -
one in Arizona and the other in Utah - suggest that the business
community can play a potentially crucial role in shaping immigration
legislation in states nationwide.
In Arizona, its opposition to five anti-illegal immigration
bills, including a high-profile attempt to deny children of illegal
immigrants birthright citizenship, played a pivotal role in turning
several Republican state senators against the bills, which failed
Meanwhile in Utah, business groups backed a suite of bills that
included a measure to offer two-year work permits to undocumented
immigrants under certain conditions and another to recruit guest
workers from Mexico. The bills were signed into law Tuesday.
At a time when the Republican Party has taken an increasingly
strident position against illegal immigration, the two votes - both
in Republican-dominated states - suggest that the path to compromise
on the issue might be through the business community, which often
has strong ties to GOP lawmakers.
The so-called Utah Compact, for example, "has highlighted the
degree to which businesses, law enforcement agencies, and community
leaders can work together to address the comprehensive realities of
immigration and ultimately influence legislative debate - at both
the state and national levels," says Catherine Wilson, a political
scientist at Villanova University who specializes in immigration
The Utah Compact has been hailed as a potential model for
compromise on illegal immigration. In addition to its provisions on
undocumented workers, it also requires police to ask suspects
arrested in connection with serious crimes about their immigration
"It was clearly the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce - and
businesses more broadly - that were driving this bus," says Mark
Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies
in Washington, a group that favors restricting immigration.
In short, experts say, many businesses are wary of hardline anti-
illegal immigration laws because they create controversy and deny
access to cheap labor.
Arizona business rebels
Some 60 CEOs of Arizona businesses signed a letter to lawmakers
begging them to stop passing harsh anti-illegal immigrant laws, says
Angela Kelley, an immigration expert at the Center for American
Progress, a Washington think tank. …