WASHINGTON - Illinois' U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is leading the way for comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate that would provide amnesty - he says "pathway to citizenship" - for millions that have come to America sidestepping federal immigration laws.
A broad coalition of immigration reform supporters - from traditional immigrant rights groups to Catholics and evangelical Protestants to high tech companies - are joining his effort to push for immigration reform, only to find the coalition fragile and sensitive to coalition members focused on their own interests.
High tech companies and corporations are anxious to bring in high skilled engineers from overseas. A recent op-ed in Roll Call by Compete America's executive director calling for Congress to open the doors for more high-skilled workers bothered Senator Durbin. So he wrote a letter to several tech companies urging them to stick to the overall plan.
"I am troubled by a recent statement that some in the technology industry may shift their focus to passage of stand-alone legislation that would only resolve the industry's concerns," Durbin wrote in an April 1 letter to the CEOs of Accenture, Amazon, Cisco, Deloitte, Facebook, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Oracle.
"This 'divide and conquer' approach destroys the delicate political balance achieved by our bipartisan (Senate) bill and calls into question the good faith of those who would sacrifice millions of lives for H1-B relief," Durbin wrote.
The Compete America executive director Scott Corley called the rift a "false controversy" and said he has reached out to other members of the coalition to reassure them.
"Nothing has really changed for us," Corley said. "No one has been more committed than our industry to comprehensive immigration reform. And that's still what we're working for."
However, since House leaders have said they prefer to take up immigration legislation issue-by-issue rather than in one sweeping bill, Corley said he urged them to take up the H1-B issue as a first step.
"We just want the House to start with something," he said. "We don't care if it's H1-B or border security or the Dream Act (to help young immigrants brought to the USA illegally as children)," Corley said. "We'll take it any way that gets us to reform."
Durbin is turning up the heat to get his comprehensive efforts through Congress. His GOP opponent Jim Oberweis says he wants to see more border security and is open to the DREAM Act for second generation immigrants.
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