Businesses Should Follow the Money Trail on Immigration

By Eric K. Ward

(Image gratefully borrowed from Vinh Tran (on left) and WelcomingIdaho (at the bottom) at

Yesterday was hot and humid in Chicago. One of the things I like best about summer heat is that it gives me the perfect excuse to ingest one of Dunkin Doughnut’s Frozen Latte. Yesterday, while I was killing some time and sucking down my frozen latte, I decided to give in to another guilty pleasure and grab yesterday's New York Times.

As I was giving the front section a good look over, I noticed an editorial entitled Pushing Back on Immigration. In the editorial it is clear that business leaders are frustrated at their inability to secure a workforce and with the federal government’s unwillingness to create rational migration laws in the United States. The NYT editorial congratulated employers around the country who have banded together to defeat local and state-level anti-immigrant legislation.

What isn’t mentioned in the editorial is that the political action committees (PACs) of these same businesses have been some of the most enthusiastic financial supporters of the very same Congresspersons who have blocked meaningful immigrant legislation.

Consider Home Depot’s PAC; they gave $130,500 in campaign contributions to anti-immigrant politicians, more than 17% of its total donations. Ironically, these same elected politicians took Home Depots money with one hand, and with the other they introduced anti-immigrant legislation that directly attacks Home Depot – and the business community at-large - because of its supposed neutral stance on immigration.

Home Depot is not alone. Almost 2600 political action committees gave campaign contributions to anti-immigrant members during the 109th Congress (2005-2006), according to a comprehensive analysis of Federal Elections Commission records conducted by the Center for New Community.

As I sat there with my creamy frozen latte, I realized that even the milk industry was not immune from mistakenly financing individual members of Congress who, as a block, are responsible for creating the very labor shortage that the dairy industry currently faces.

All told, fifteen of the PACs closely tied to the dairy industry’s interests have contributed over $400,000 to anti-immigrant campaign coffers. In addition, when one adds the amount given by all agricultural related interests, the number sharply rises to millions of dollars. These anti-immigrant members of Congress have received campaign contributions from a surprisingly wide range of dairy industry sources, including Select Milk Producers PAC, United Egg Association EggPAC, and the Dairy Farmers of America Inc. DEPAC to name just a few. How did this happen?

While members of the business community tend to view congressional members as individuals, nearly a quarter of the House of Representatives have joined together to act as a bloc. Under the umbrella of the House Immigration Reform Caucus (HIRC), over 118 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have opposed virtually ever piece of key legislation aimed at relieving present labor shortages. In addition, HIRC members have increasingly placed the administrative burden of verifying the legal status of employees onto businesses themselves, forcing companies into acting like immigration enforcement officers.

The House Immigration Reform Caucus is led by Brian Bilbray, from California’s 50th Congressional District. Before his election to Congress, Bilbray was a lobbyist for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and today continues to serve as co-chair of it s National Board of Advisors. The Federation for American Immigration Reform has a long history of accepting funds and associating with political extremists, including some folks with ties to white supremacist organizations. As Bilbray took over the HIRC in January of 2007, the California congressman announced plans to “work closely” with groups, such as FAIR and the Center for Immigration Studies – a FAIR spin-off, to seek their input on legislation.

If business is really serious about encouraging realistic solutions, perhaps they might start by not financially supporting those who promote policies that can be fairly described as both inhumane and anti-business. Perhaps it’s time for them to put their money where their mouths are.


Anonymous said...

This is an insightful and thoughtful article, and shedding light on so many of the complexities of this issue. Of course, this then begs the question and the discussion, why do these large corporations want to support immigration? To bring in cheaper labor for them to exploit. Is the enemy of my enemy my ally? When is it strategic and when is it suicidal to form alliances?

Dr.C! said...

the cool thing about being a contributer to this blog is that i'm in such solid company. thanks, eric, an informative yet very interesting piece. it does seem that logic really has gone out the door. why? who's responsible? i reckon we all are in a way. but then why don't these folks get called on their seeming hypocrisy? hmmmm...

Eric Ward said...

Hey Anonymous, thanks for posting. Thanks for the compliments. I think it the jury is out on if large corporations support immigration. Lest we forget when the "Comprehensive Immigration" fight occurred in D.C. businesses fled the fight at the first drop of blood.

We shouldn't forget the in Postville, IA (the largest anti-immigrant raid in modern U.S. history) the owners of the plant, unlike the workers, weren't arrested. While they did receive a large fine it was eventually reduced.

In my post I wanted to highlight that the jury is still out on how much businesses really do oppose the inhumane, unfair and unworkable system that currently exists in the U.S. If they do oppose it will they really have the courage to stand up to xenophobes? You and I will both be watching on this one.

Hey Noah! Welcome back and your audio is dynamite. I agree all logic has completely gone out the window on immigration in American society. No one is talking about who benefits from an unworkable system and no one is asking who created a situation that displaced millions of people and forced them to leave their homes for a better life.

I guess it's easier to buy my $12.00 jeans and $3.00 bad of rice, and hate on immigrant rather than have to understand how I've benefited from the economic displacement of people.

Thanks both of you!