Durbin, Oberhelman Discuss Need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

[PEORIA, IL] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman in Peoria today to discuss the need to reform the country’s immigration system. Durbin is a member of the Senate Gang of Eight, which introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill after months of negotiations earlier this year and worked successfully to pass the bill on a bipartisan basis in June.  


“Months ago, I sat down with seven of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to tackle a difficult issue which has defied Congress for decades,” Durbin said.  “We wrote a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would allow millions who live and work in our country to come out of the shadows and earn their place here.  We need this bill for the security of our country and the competitiveness of our economy.  This is our best chance in a generation to enact comprehensive immigration reform, and I look forward to doing everything I can to ensure immigration reform reaches President Obama’s desk.”


“The environment is as competitive and as tough as it has ever been, and by tackling the immigration issue on the scale we are discussing, we will help make this country and companies like Caterpillar more competitive,” said Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman. “I applaud Senator Durbin for his bipartisan leadership on this issue and urge the House to build on this momentum toward making common sense immigration reform a reality.”


“The Senate’s approval of comprehensive immigration reform showed that bipartisanship is not dead, and that Congress is still capable of tackling the most important issues facing our country,” Durbin said.  “Now it’s up to the House to continue that momentum. I urge my colleagues to work together in a bipartisan fashion and vote to bring our country’s immigration system into the 21st century.”


The Senate bill will help American businesses attract the best talent from around the world, allowing them to stay competitive in this global economy.  It expands access to visas for talented workers and allows STEM graduates with advanced degrees to work here.  It also unleashes the earning power of the 11 million men and women currently living and working here undocumented, who will be able to leave the underground economy behind in pursuit of jobs that match their skills.


In Illinois, which is projected to need nearly 320,000 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs in the next five years, more than 40 percent of the students who earn a master’s or doctoral degree in one of those fields are international students and temporary immigrants.  In 2011, almost 2,700 specialists in advanced fields like computer programming and biomedicine who earned degrees in Illinois were unable to obtain visas upon their graduation.  The Senate bill allows employers to sponsor for a green card any student who graduates from a U.S. school with an advanced degree in a STEM field (science, technology, education, and mathematics) if they will be working in a STEM job in their field. 


The cap on visas for skilled workers (H-1Bs) will rise from 65,000 to 115,000, with increases to 180,000 possible in the future.  The bill also increases requirements for recruiting U.S. workers prior to hiring foreign workers, increases fees and wage requirements for companies who heavily use H-1Bs, and cracks down on the use of H-1Bs for outsourcing American jobs.  The bill also requires an employer who is hiring a high-skilled foreign worker to pay a fee that will set aside for a fund to help train Americans for STEM jobs.


The bill initiates a new agricultural guest worker program to provide a more stable agricultural workforce with labor protections.  Regional Economic Models estimates this program would result in over 1,700 new jobs by 2020 and increase Illinois residents’ earnings by $101 million.


The bill also provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently living and working in the country provided they pay several fees, have committed no major crimes, are working or financially stable and are learning English.  According to the Center for American Progress, the law would allow undocumented immigrants to increase their earnings by 15 percent over five years, leading to $832 billion in economic growth and $109 billion in increased tax revenue over a decade and the creation of an estimated 121,000 jobs each year.


An analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that bill would reduce the federal deficit by roughly $135 billion by 2023 and an additional $685 billion through 2033.  The CBO also found that the bill would lead to 5% increases in both GDP and employment in the next twenty years.