White House takes suggestions from business on immigration changes

U.S. President Obama delivers remarks about the faltering immigration reform agenda to the news media with Vice President Joe Biden in the Rose Garden at the White House June 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

In addition to reviewing the deportation system of immigrants in the U.S. illegally, the Obama administration is weighing executive actions to change the legal immigration system in ways that could benefit businesses, the Wall Street Journal reports.

In more than 20 meetings this summer, White House and other administration officials have recruited suggestions from industries like technology, agriculture and construction.

High-tech firms, in search of ways to increase the number of skilled foreign workers that can come to the U.S., have pitched the idea of excluding workers' spouses from the 140,000-per-year visa cap. They would also like to see the government "recapture" unused green cards from previous years, which could add more than 200,000 new green cards to the system, the Journal reports.

While people from the agricultural movement aren't pushing for aggressive executive action for fear of further alienating Congress on the issue, some still see a way the administration could help. Kristi Boswell, who is the director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau, told the Journal her members would like to see the administration direct its focus away from efforts to seek out and deport illegal workers that could cause "instability" for farmers.

And a representative for construction companies, Houston attorney Alberto Cardenas Jr., said that if the administration grants work permits to some immigrants in the country illegally, they should be required to work for legitimate companies so that the underground companies that pay in cash have less sway over workers.

"The president has not made a decision regarding next steps, but he believes it's important to understand and consider the full range of perspectives on potential solutions," White House spokesman Shawn Turner told the Journal in an email.

Those groups were actively involved in crafting the Senate immigration bill that passed in June 2013, but have been similarly stymied by the gridlock in Congress on the issue.

Mr. Obama is reportedly weighing unilateral steps he could take to defer deportations for anywhere from 550,000 to 4.4 million immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally, as well as providing some with work permits. The move is sure to draw harsh criticism from Republicans, who argued that they could not pass immigration reform in 2014 because the president cannot be trusted to enforce the law.

"I promise you the American people don't want me just standing around twiddling my thumbs and waiting for Congress to get something done," Mr. Obama said earlier this month regarding immigration, although he said it was his "preference" to work with Congress. He said he will have to "make choices in terms of how we allocate personnel and resources" in the immigration enforcement system in light of congressional inaction.

He is expected to make a decision on how to proceed by the end of the summer.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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