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Readout of Comprehensive Immigration Reform Conference Call with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Friday, June 3, 2011

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Education Secretary Arne Duncan participated in a conference call today to discuss comprehensive immigration reform with members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The pair made the case for why effective immigration reform is vital to U.S. economic competitiveness and why the involvement of the business community is crucial to move this important priority forward. Approximately 175 people from at least 30 states joined the call, including 80 CEOs and representatives from businesses, local and state chambers of commerce and industry and trade associations. 

Locke discussed how comprehensive reform will help create jobs in the U.S. and stressed the need to build an immigration system that will attract the brightest, most highly-skilled people from around the world, so their skills, ideas and entrepreneurial spirit can help start new businesses, enhancing U.S. global competitiveness.  Locke specifically highlighted two proposed approaches for reforming the current visa system: encouraging top foreign talents who receive a graduate degree in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to remain in the U.S. after they graduate by allowing them to acquire legal permanent residence; and issuing two-year visas to immigrant entrepreneurs whose start-up companies receive investment from a U.S. investor, and giving these entrepreneurs permanent residence if their companies create full-time jobs in the U.S. within those two years.  Locke urged members of the Chamber to help make the case in their communities that comprehensive immigration reform is an economic imperative critical to America’s future economic competitiveness. 

Locke asked participants on the call to add their voice to the national conversation by visiting and hosting a conversation in their community about why we need to fix the broken immigration system. 

Duncan emphasized the importance of opening the doors of America’s top-notch higher education to more immigrants, so more talented youth can attend college and receive the knowledge and skills they need to contribute to the economy.  He specifically underscored the DREAM Act as an important part of the administration’s comprehensive immigration reform agenda and a piece of legislation that will help more immigrants receive higher education, pursue their American dream and help the entire American economy prosper. 

In his 2011 State of the Union address and speech in El Paso, Texas in May, President Obama made comprehensive immigration reform a key economic priority of his vision to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build our global competition and win the future.  Today’s call was hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to give its members an opportunity to speak directly to Cabinet-level officials and learn about how the administration’s comprehensive immigration reform efforts will benefit the businesses community and the economy.