US Senate Gives Boost to Immigration Bill, Obama Joins CEOs to Urge Reforms

President Barack Obama meets with business owners and entrepreneurs to discuss immigration reform, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, June 24, 2013

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Washington, DC – The US Senate this week signaled strong support for a bipartisan proposal to strengthen border security, voting overwhelmingly to advance a border security compromise written by two Republican senators that would add a so-called “border surge” to the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill.

The amendment, from Republican Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota, cleared a procedural vote in the Senate as fifteen Republicans voted in favor of cloture, and zero Democrats broke from their party to oppose the measure, giving a boost to prospects for passage of sweeping immigration legislation in the country.

With the 67-27 vote considered a key test of support for the bill as a whole, there was hope for bipartisan momentum for the larger proposal as it nears final passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate and heads to the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

Moreover, earlier in the day, President Barack Obama welcomed a group of top business executives to the White House to discuss comprehensive immigration reform.

Addressing the “extraordinary business leaders,” a group of nine top American CEOs, including two Indian-Americans, gathered in the Roosevelt room, Obama said that reform would fix a broken immigration system, thus giving a boost to the American economic recovery.

The President acknowledged the executives know first-hand that the broken immigration system is bad for business, for workers and the economy. He also noted that some of the business leaders at the table were immigrants, and like the generations of immigrants before them, they came to this country to build a better life and are now helping to build a stronger economy by creating American jobs.

“All of us recognize that now is the time to get comprehensive immigration reform done — one that involves having very strong border security; that makes sure that we’re holding employers accountable to follow the rules; one that provides earned citizenship for those 11 million, so that they have to pay back taxes, pay a fine, learn English, follow the rules, get to the back of the line, but ultimately can be part of the above-board economy, as opposed to the low-board economy; and a system that fixes and cleans up our legal immigration system so that we can continue to be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants,” Obama said.

Lamenting the fact that the US is losing highly talented immigrants, Obama said, “We have a system in which we bring outstanding young people from all across the world to educate them here, and unfortunately, too often, we send them right back so that they can start companies or help to grow companies somewhere else instead of here.”

“We have a situation in which millions of individuals are in the shadow economy, oftentimes exploited at lower wages, and that hurts those companies that are following the rules, because they end up being at a disadvantage to some of these less scrupulous companies,” he added.

The President reiterated his support for the continued bipartisan efforts in Congress and made clear that he would continue to urge “Congressional leaders to take action in order to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class, improve our fiscal outlook and create new opportunity for Americans everywhere.”

The participants in the meeting included:

· Steve Case, Chairman and CEO, Revolution LLc

· Jason Berry, Owner, Blueberry Farms of Georgia and Berry Farms

· Farooq Kathwari, Chairman, President and CEO of Ethan Allen Interiors Inc.

· Bricia Lopez, Co-Owner of the Guelaguetza Restaurante

· Karen Lozano, Founder and Chief Technology Officer, FibeRio Technology

· Sunil Puri, Founder, First Rockford Group

· Dilawar Syed, CEO Yonja Media Group

· Alex Torrenegra, Founder, VoiceBunny and WeHostels

· Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO, Founder and President, Chobani 

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