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Businesses Should Follow the Money Trail on Immigration

Eric Ward • Jul 22, 2008

As I skimmed yesterday morning’s New York Times, I noticed an editorial entitled Pushing Back on Immigration. The piece makes clear that business leaders are equally frustrated both with their inability to secure a workforce and with the federal government’s unwillingness to create rational migration laws here in the United States.

The editorial congratulated employers around the country who have banded together to defeat local and state-level anti-immigrant legislation.

What isn’t mentioned in the editorial is that the political action committees (PACs) of these same businesses have been among the most enthusiastic financial supporters of the very same Congresspersons blocking such meaningful legislation.

Consider Home Depot’s PAC, which gave $130,500, more than 17% of its total donations in campaign contributions, to anti-immigrant politicians. Ironically, these same elected politicians took Home Depot’s money with one hand and with the other introduced anti-immigrant legislation that significantly impacts their industrial base.

Home Depot is not alone, either. Almost 2,600 political action committees gave campaign contributions to anti-immigrant members during the 109th Congress (2005-2006), according to comprehensive analysis of Federal Elections Commission records conducted by the Center for New Community.

So as I was sitting there with my coffee, I realized that even the milk industry is not exempt from mistakenly financing individual members of Congress who, as a bloc, are responsible for creating the very labor shortage that is presently strapping the dairy industry. All told, fifteen of the PACs closely tied to the dairy industry have deposited over $400,000 into anti-immigrant campaign coffers. In addition, when one adds the amount given by all agricultural related interests the numbers quickly stagger into millions.

Even more staggering is that these anti-immigrant members of Congress have received campaign contributions from a surprisingly broad cross section of the dairy industry, with Select Milk Producers PAC, United Egg Association EggPAC, and the Dairy Farmers of America Inc. DEPAC among them.

How can this happen?

It can be said that members of the business community tend to view congressional members as individuals, as many of us do, yet nearly a quarter of the House of Representatives have joined together to act as a bloc. Under the umbrella of the House Immigration Reform Caucus (HIRC), over 118 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have opposed virtually every piece of key legislation aimed at relieving present labor shortages. In addition, HIRC members have increasingly placed the administrative burden of verifying the legal status of employees on the backs of small businesses, which in effect forces companies to act as private immigration enforcement officers.

The House Immigration Reform Caucus is led by Brian Bilbray of California’s 50th Congressional District. Before his election to Congress, Bilbray was a lobbyist for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and today continues to serve as a co-chair of its National Board of Advisors.

FAIR has a long history of accepting funds from and associating with political extremists and fringe right-wingers, including some with ties to white supremacist organizations.

As Bilbray took over the HIRC in January of 2007, he announced plans to “work closely” with groups such as FAIR and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), one of FAIR’s many spin-off groups, in order to receive their feedback on legislation.

Speaking generally, if the business community is really serious about encouraging realistic solutions, perhaps they should begin by refusing to support in any way whatsoever those who promote inhumane, anti-business pieces of legislation.

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