Businesses Balk at Backing Immigration-Overhaul Pitch

Bloomberg, Aug. 29

Some of America’s biggest companies are withholding contributions to a public campaign supporting President George W. Bush’s immigration plan because they’re concerned that any legislation may impose greater restrictions on hiring workers from overseas.

“There is a reluctance to sign up for something that might turn out not to be the type of immigration reform bill we want to see,” said John Gay, who runs a coalition in support of guest—worker programs that includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, First Data Corp. and Marriott International Inc.

Republican lobbyists including Ed Gillespie, the party’s former national chairman, and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, are seeking to raise money for a public relations-campaign of as much as $3 million to support Bush’s plan. The lobbyists are asking companies such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Microsoft Corp. to contribute between $50,000 and $250,000 to pay for the effort.

Bush’s plan aims to allow employers to hire immigrant “guest workers,” which companies want. Supporters say their concern is that Republican lawmakers pushing for tighter borders on national—security grounds will pressure Bush eventually to accept a measure making it harder rather than easier to hire workers from overseas.

“We are still uncertain what the policy is that the group will advocate for,” Lee Culpepper, a lobbyist for Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, said of the Gillespie-Armey effort. “Will it be only whatever the White House wants, or will it be independent policy goals formed by the members of the group?”

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