After decades of political stalemate, policy makers from both sides of the aisle are coming together to find a solution on immigration reform. Most people turn to their elected officials to come to an agreement, however, many don’t realize that there are behind-the-scenes players that wield a surprising amount of power in deciding the path that our country will take.
Let’s shed some light on some of these backroom wheelers and dealers.
1. Tech Giants and Silicon Valley
First on the list and coming as little surprise, tech giants like Facebook, Microsoft, Intel, and others have been vigorously lobbying for immigration reform. Last year alone, Microsoft spent $8 million in its broader lobbying efforts and filed 33 disclosure reports dealing with immigration. Intel spent half that on its own immigration lobbying efforts.
What spurs many of these companies to petition the government is the arbitrary cap the Feds put on high-skilled labor visas. H-1B visas are capped at 65,000 annually for those with undergraduate or professional degrees. Another 20,000 are reserved for candidates with graduate-level credentials. Unable to find viable domestic candidates, the competition among companies quickly heats up for these visas and available caps are often rapidly exhausted.
Private Detention Facilities
Those in the private prison industry, like Corrections Corporation of America, make a substantial portion of their profits from detention centers for illegal immigrants.
This financial incentive has led them to spend large amounts of money contributing to political candidates who support strict immigration standards and oppose broad reform. Additionally, CCA spent $970,000 last year to lobby Congress and the U.S. Marshals Service on a variety of issues. All in all, the private prison industry is responsible for housing 16% of America’s prison population…so they can carry a big stick in these debates.
The AFL-CIO and the US Chamber of Commerce
Recently, these strange bedfellows have come together to reach an agreement on the thorny issue of how the US should deal with the future flow of low-skilled and temporary workers.
A joint statement was recently released by the Chamber and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). It stated that, “Our challenge is to create a mechanism that responds to the needs of business in a market-driven way, while also fully protecting the wages and working conditions of U.S. and immigrant workers.”
Historically, though, labor unions dating back over a century have consistently discouraged the entry of new workers that would compete with their monopoly hold over labor contracts in certain industries. So, a significant expansion of the country’s guest worker program to handle future flows of low-skilled immigrants is still uncertain to occur.
Foreign governments are hitting it hard to shape the immigration reform debate. While they try to avoid meddling in United States’ domestic affairs, countries like Mexico, Ireland, and others in Central America have established themselves in the fight.
Not only is this a humanitarian issue, but remittances from foreign nationals back to their home country provide a substantial boost to those nations’ economies. For instance, remittances to El Salvador, one of the countries most interested in reform, accounted for almost 17.4% of the country’s economy in 2010.
Lobbyists from construction, agricultural, leisure, and hospitality industries were also among these groups lobbying Congress and federal agencies heavily last year on immigration reform.
Ultimately, the decision on immigration reform falls on our representatives in office. However, these behind-the-scenes players often are in backrooms on the Hill deciding what shape this bill will take and, moreover, the future of our country.