Babs Chase serves as a Program Officer for the State Department's Foreign Press Center.
March 5, 2008
Since everyone has survived Super Tuesday #2, it is time to look at the issues behind the campaign. Some people weren’t too excited about our early morning departure the morning after the primary, but the briefings proved to be well worth the lack of sleep.
Bill Hammond, President and CEO, Texas Association of Business, welcomed the group to his office to talk about immigration from the business perspective. It was a fascinating discussion, similar to what discussions in the U.S. media currently are. He was intelligent and entertaining, captivating the group with his wit and frank logic.
The goal of the Texas Association of Business (TAB) is to create the best business environment possible for Texas companies. Immigration is critically important to them as it directly affects their members’ need for employees. Mr. Hammond shared with the group that he believed three key industries -- agriculture, construction and hospitality—are dependent on the immigrant workforce to do the jobs that not enough U.S. citizens will do. TAB aggressively campaigns for comprehensive immigration reform, and they are hopeful that all presidential candidates will recognize and fight for this crucial change. They argue that the U.S. government must raise the immigration limits to allow enough individuals to legally come into this country to fill the existing workforce requirements.
We met next with John Colyandro, Executive Director, Texas Conservative Coalition Institute, and State Representative Linda Harper-Brown, Vice Chairman, of the Texas Conservative Coalition to hear their perspective on immigration challenges. They also agree with comprehensive immigration reform and lament the burdensome, expensive process required for those legally entering the U.S. They see a need to close the border technologically as well as come down harder on employees or hire undocumented workers. Their largest concern is that those individuals who are voting illegally. They do not prefer amnesty. They pointed to specific countries where the immigration standards and penalties for those who abuse the system are much more stringent than ours.
All of our journalists seem fascinated with the current immigration discussions—they understand and can put a real face on the individuals trying to get a better life at whatever the skill level. One journalist asked what would happen to the U.S. without immigrants, quickly discovering that all the journalists in the group believe that it would be disastrous for the U.S. economy. Our South African reporter asked an interesting question—Why are we so worried about punishing those who break a law that so many agree is wrong? All of the journalists are looking forward to seeing the next piece of this debate in Laredo, but, they are also anxious to see how the new Administration will confront this issue.