The Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee played host yesterday to a discussion on U.S. immigration policy. The presenters were Coalition for a Working Oregon Co-Chairman and OAN Government Relations Director Jeff Stone and Oregonians for Immigration Reform President Jim Ludwick. Each gave a 10 minute presentation, and then there was a question-and-answer period.
Stone advocated for comprehensive immigration reform that provides for enforcement, security and fairness, while providing assurance of an adequate labor supply for business interests. “We need a cogent immigration reform package,” he said. “We need one that is fair not just to the workers but the employers.” The Coalition for a Working Oregon will work to provide a strong voice in support of this reform, he said. “You have the 20 leading business associations in the state at one table, under one banner,” he said.
Ludwick argued not only that illegal immigration should be curtailed as much as possible, but that the ranks of legal immigrants should be sharply curtailed from more than a million annually to 230,000 per year, which was the average yearly immigration into the U.S. from 1776-1976. Ludwick blamed swelling prison populations and increased second-language education costs on illegal immigrants, mentioning that 1,100 Oregon inmates have ICE holds and will be deported when they complete their sentences. “Illegal aliens cost more in services than they contribute in taxes,” he said.
Stone and Ludwick disagreed over the proper role of state and federal governments in the immigration issue. Ludwick said states should take on enforcement when Congress fails to step in. Stone, however, said that immigration enforcement is the purview of the federal government. He criticized efforts by states such as Oklahoma to create their own laws, saying it results in unfairness for businesses and employees. “I do believe that over the next 18 months, (Congress) is going to address this,” he said.
Stone said that it was a good discussion to have. “There are very few issues that raise the passion thermometer like immigration,” he said. “It is important to hear both sides of the issue.” He said that CWO will take its case on the road and visit with additional chambers and other business groups this year.