Compact addresses immigration reform

Editor’s note: This guest opinion was co-written by Brad Feld, managing director, Foundry Group; Mike Jorgensen, chairman, Colorado Springs Business Alliance; Kelly Brough, president, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce; John Brackney, president/CEO, South Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce; and Sarah MacQuiddy, president, Greeley Chamber of Commerce.

Since our nation’s founding, immigration has played an integral role in our economy, as workers and families are drawn here by the promise of opportunity and the allure of achieving the American dream. In the process, billions of dollars in consumer spending are added to the economy.

However, the issue is also an emotional one, with no shortage of rhetoric and political posturing. That rhetoric is merely noise that covers up what the business community recognizes are the real problems — whether it’s highly educated students that are forced to go back to their home countries where they will compete with our own workers and businesses in the global marketplace or a visa system that undermines Colorado’s robust tourism industry — we need reform.

Unfortunately, our lawmakers have focused more on the politics around the issue than on workable solutions. Our employees, our suppliers, our customers and our competitors across the globe will tell you that sort of politics and posturing just doesn’t cut it in the real world.

We signed on to the Colorado Compact because it is time for a real conversation about immigration and about how to solve this problem now.

The Colorado Compact, a nonpartisan initiative spearheaded by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and former Sen. Hank Brown, R-Colo., does just that. It brings together more than 400 organizations and community leaders to agree on a set of principles to guide immigration reform.

By bringing together people who are directly impacted by the immigration debate – law enforcement, immigration advocates, faith-based leaders, business owners, farmers and others – the compact sends a message to Washington that there is indeed an appetite for civil discourse and common ground on this issue. Comprehensive reform is possible.

The compact outlines several points that we believe should serve as a framework for any discussion on reforms. It acknowledges that our immigration policies are the responsibility of the federal government, and it prioritizes both maintaining safe and secure borders and keeping close families together.

Most importantly for business owners, we signed the compact because it demonstrates a clear commitment to ensuring that any immigration reform policy must be developed with the best interest of the economy in mind.

The compact recognizes that Colorado is best served by a free-market philosophy that maximizes individual freedom and opportunity. It supports an immigration system flexible enough to address the needs of businesses while protecting the interests of workers. This approach includes a visa system that is responsive and effective at meeting the demands of our economy — for example, supporting high-tech companies in hiring highly skilled grads coming out of our own universities — but one that also acknowledges the beneficial economic contributions immigrants make as workers, taxpayers and consumers – in Colorado alone, undocumented workers represent an overall economic impact of $33 billion, that’s 13 percent of our state’s total output.

Immigration is a high priority for us in Colorado. We need our leaders in Washington to leave their politics at the door and have a frank discussion about what it will take to enact real and lasting reforms to our immigration system. The Colorado Compact is the place to start.

For more information go online at www.ColoradoCompact.com.

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