WASHINGTON — An Arkansas business contingent delivered a simple message Tuesday to members of the state delegation on Capitol Hill: The time is now for immigration reform.
"We are here to advocate for immigration reform — that they (members) express to House leadership that the issue should be brought to the floor for debate," said Andrew Parker, governmental affairs director for the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce-Associated Industries of Arkansas.
Parker, Arkansas Farm Bureau lobbyist Jeffery Hall, state Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, and a handful of Arkansas businessmen joined hundreds of other pro-immigration conservatives from around the country to urge the House to take up immigration reform.
The "fly-in," which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce helped organize, comes as some House Republicans have resisted taking up any immigration reforms this year fearing that doing so could open the door to the sweeping measure the Senate approved in June.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said he does not favor taking up a massive immigration reform bill and would prefer considering a series of narrower fixes to the system.
The Senate bill, which would offer undocumented immigrants a 13-year path to citizenship, was approved 68-32. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., voted for it. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., voted against it, saying the bill did not do enough for border security.
Parker said that there is "strong support" for immigration reform among members of the Arkansas chamber, who include more than 1,300 businesses.
"If the House doesn’t want to go with the Senate bill, fine. Our interest is the issues provided in that bill and that they be brought to the floor for a conversation," Parker said.
Hall said immigration reform should not be delayed. Arkansas farmers, he said, need a guest worker program that will allow them to fill the jobs they have in both eastern and western Arkansas.
"It’s really an issue of simple math," said Joe Carter, chief executive officer of Snyder Environmental in Little Rock. "In order for the United States to grow our population has to grow, the number of willing workers has to grow and the number of consumers within the U.S. border has to grow."
Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, said lawmakers in the House and Senate should not fear negotiating an agreement.
"You can never go wrong sitting down and discussing substantive issues and trying to work out your differences," he said. "The do-nothing attitude just because you think you are not going to get anywhere is exactly going to result in that — getting nowhere."
The group visited the Capitol offices of U.S. Reps. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, and Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock.