Michael Bloomberg-led group launches 2017 immigration reform drive

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's pro- immigration group, The Partnership for a New American Economy, is holding events in every state.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's pro- immigration group, The Partnership for a New American Economy, is holding events in every state.

NEW YORK (TIP): The pro-immigration advocacy group led by Michael Bloomberg is already shifting its focus to 2017, with a new campaign launching Wednesday, August 3, focused largely on making the economic case for overhauling the immigration system and giving cover to GOP lawmakers on the issue.

The Partnership for a New American Economy, headed by the former New York City¬†mayor and News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, is calling the new initiative “Reason for Reform” and w flooded all 50 states Wednesday with pro-reform events and detailed economic reports tailored to each state. The group is also pushing a new digital crowdsourcing effort to collect stories of how immigration has affected residents in all 435 congressional districts.

The new project is the most elaborate yet from the Bloomberg-led group, underscoring that immigration reform – should it occur next year – will be a fiercely contested legislative fight. Pro-reform forces are determined to start early trying to persuade Republicans, well before a new president is elected.

“Together, those stories and the data make a compelling case: not only do Americans want immigration reform, our economy needs it,” said the group’s chairman, John Feinblatt. Also involved in Wednesday’s new campaign are companies including Intel, Pinterest and Google; as well as groups that have long¬†advocated for an immigration overhaul, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Western Growers Association, the American Farm Bureau and the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

It also indicates the level of optimism among advocacy groups pushing for immigration reform that a new president and Congress can make headway on the issue – despite significant rifts between the two parties on immigration that’s reflected in each of the presidential nominees, as well as a deeply divided Capitol Hill.

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Congress got halfway to an overhaul during the 113th Congress, when the Senate passed a sweeping comprehensive immigration measure written by the so-called Gang of Eight in 2013 but the House never moved on the issue. Those same groups leading Wednesday’s campaign had pushed for reform in 2013, and could not sway enough House Republicans amid threats of a political backlash from the right.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton says she wants to take on immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship within her first 100 days in office. GOP standard-bearer Donald Trump’s immigration platform is anchored by a wall along the southern border and mass deportation of immigrants in the United States illegally.

The House is likely to stay in GOP hands, but Senate control is up for grabs. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer has promised to take up immigration reform if Senate Democrats win in November and he becomes majority leader next year. Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has a long history of favoring pro-immigration measures, but pledged in his bid for speaker last year that he would not move legislation on contentious issues such as immigration without support from a majority of his caucus.

Wednesday’s effort from Bloomberg’s group is yet another effort to nudge House Republicans along, particularly by invoking what it describes as the economic benefits of immigration reform.

For example, the coalition’s report for Ohio says immigrants in the state earned $15.6 billion in 2014 – leaving them, after taxes, with $11.1 billion in spending power that could be pumped back into the economy. Florida’s report finds in that same year, 51 percent of agriculture workers in the state were foreign-born.

And the report for Nevada says companies in the state owned by immigrants generated $795.3 million in business income in 2014, while noting that the gaming and resort behemoth Las Vegas Sands was founded by a Russian immigrant.

The Partnership for a New American Economy wants to have similarly exhaustive economic data and anecdotes available for all congressional districts by next year.

As part of Wednesday’s campaign, the Partnership for a New American Economy pulled in GOP politicians such as Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, actors Reid Scott of “Veep” and Dean Norris of “Breaking Bad” and early investors in tech companies such as Google, Twitter, Fitbit and Foursquare. They are joining local events, penning op-eds or appearing in videos on behalf of the campaign.

In all, the Partnership coordinated 62 immigration reform events nationwide on August 3.

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