Unlikely allies, business and labor leaders joined in support of the White House’s immigration overhaul efforts Tuesday while also launching high-stakes negotiations to overcome an issue that has split them before — creating a guest-worker program to ensure future immigrants come to the U.S. legally.
The broad agreement on a need for immigration changes and a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already here is driven largely by self-interest. Both business and labor see an overhaul of the nation’s broken immigration system as a way to boost economic competitiveness with other nations while increasing the ranks of workers and union members.
For President Barack Obama, a partnership between factions that often have been at odds — both with each other and with the White House — allows him to turn up pressure on Congress and try to isolate congressional Republicans who oppose parts of an immigration overhaul. Obama had separate private meetings at the White House on Tuesday with labor leaders and top business executives.
Despite optimistic public statements, the fragile business-labor alliance still is in question as the Chamber of Commerce meets with the AFL-CIO and other labor groups privately to hammer out details of how to deal with future immigrants who come to the U.S. to work.