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Chamber's Immigration Plan

Herndon Dulles Chamber of Commerce urges state legislators to take a stance on immigration reform.

America's leaders have failed in their attempt to address the country's current immigration policy, according to a letter by Pat Williams, chairman of the Herndon Dulles Chamber of Commerce.

Sent to Virginia's congressional leaders last week, the letter addressed the Herndon Dulles Chamber of Commerce's position on immigration reform.

Chamber representatives, Mayor Michael O'Reilly and Fairfax County Supervisor Joan DuBois (R-Dranesville) met with Virginia's congressmen in person last week to outline four points the chamber feels must be addressed in upcoming immigration reform discussions.

"We've been through quite a lot in Herndon over the last three months," said O'Reilly, implying the town's day-labor debates. "We have requested they [the congressmen] take action and that they take it sooner rather than later."

A delegation of Chamber members, including Raul Danny Vargas, Charles Tievsky, both representatives from the chamber's Hispanic Business committee, Williams and Eileen Curtis, chamber president and CEO, met with U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10) and U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-11) early last week. Also included in that delegation were O'Reilly and DuBois. The group met with U.S. Sen. George Allen (R) and aides from U.S. Sen. John Warner's (R) office later in the week.

"We want to go beyond what we read in the paper about what is happening on The Hill," said Williams in a press conference last week. "We all agree America's immigration policy needs work and we are urging our congressmen to take a bold, active leadership role to work toward immigration reform."

BECAUSE AMERICA'S immigration laws have not been "subject to a comprehensive reexamination for decades," it is time for Congress to modernize these laws, according to the chamber's letter.

And while they are aware this is not an easy task, the chamber delegation has comprised four items of interest that they would like to see congress address this year.

The first item is that the law "must recognize American businesses' sustained and growing demand for unskilled and semiskilled labor" is legitimate and desirable for economic growth.

"We need to have the federal government create a lot more positions," said Curtis, adding smaller governments need to examine their own economic growth to see how it is affected by skilled and unskilled labor.

And, while examining America's culture, the chamber also believes Congress should "step up its efforts to foster freedom, opportunity and economic prosperity" outside the United States, in the nations of immigrants. Bilateral and multilateral cooperation, trade and financial incentives are just some of the ways this could be achieved, according to the chamber.

During the meeting with Allen, the senator agreed with the delegations' suggestion that a comprehensive immigration reform needed to be enacted to help secure the nation's borders, said Suzanne Fulton, communications manager with the chamber.

"His priority is border security," she said. "He seemed to be fully understanding of the businesses' viewpoints."

The chamber's final suggestion was an improvement in immigration processing, so the backlog of applications could be handled more efficiently. One way to accomplish this would be through an increase in the number of guest worker applications made available each year, said Fulton.

While congress debates a number of immigration reform and border security proposals in 2006, the chamber will encourage its members to write letters to Davis, Wolf, Allen and Warner requesting something be done immediately, said Curtis.

"The process and discussion on the immigration issue is not one that has arisen overnight," she said. "And, it's not going to go away overnight."