The Chamber of Commerce rally included many representatives from state Chambers of Commerce, some business leaders, and many left-of-center evangelicals organized by a progressive group, the National Immigration Forum.
Companies in Kansas need more workers for low-skill and high-skill jobs, such as health care and engineering jobs, said Eric Stafford of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.
The House should support the Senate bill because companies in Utah need more workers, said Jason Mathis, a vice president at the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce.
Evangelicals are increasingly supportive of immigration because they recognize that they have a biblical duty to help strangers, said Gary VanderPol, an assistant professor of justice and mission at Denver Seminary, in Littleton, Colo.
American Christians owe foreigners as much respect as they do to Americans, said Craig Davis, a pastor for a Quaker church in Yorba Linda, Calif. “To me, [nationality] does not matter,” he told TheDC. Foreigners should be aided, even if they end up voting for politicians who try to legislate against religion, he added. “We need to lean towards people who need help.”
Congress should “step up for doing right,” said David Park, an evangelical pastor from Georgia. Families in his district are being broken up by immigration enforcement, he complained.
However, a June survey by Public Opinion Research reported that 51 percent of evangelicals want to reduce immigration inflow, while only 17 percent want to increase the inflow.
The survey of 1,000 people also showed that only 11 percent of evangelicals would grant full legal status to illegals.
Seventy-five percent of evangelicals said that American businesses should hire Americans before foreign workers, while only 2 percent strongly disagreed with preferences for Americans, said the survey.
The survey was funded by NumbersUSA, which wants to reduce the current inflow of 1 million legal immigrants per year.
Advocates of the immigration bill also downplayed the political consequences of increased immigration.
The Senate bill “is good for the economy, business, for everybody,” said Tim Volk, a vice president for Emerson Electric Co. But asked whether immigration would aid the GOP’s ballot-box support, he punted, saying “the much bigger issue is what’s good for the economy.”
GOP politicians should be hopeful of getting Latinos’ votes once they become citizens, Mathis said. “If their [policy] arguments are right, they shouldn’t have anything to worry about,” he told TheDC. But if Republicans “keep insulting them,” Latinos will walk away, he said.
Latinos share pro-life views with the GOP, and tend to support small-government policies, Stafford said. “I don’t think their minds are necessarily made up.”
In 2012, Obama won 71 percent of the Latino vote, leaving 23 percent to Gov. Mitt Romney. Recent immigrants voted even more heavily for Obama, while the middle-class children and grandchildren of Latino immigrants were more centrist.
Republicans can win Latino votes on bread and butter issues, said Allen Gutierrez, the executive director of The Latino Coalition.
Latinos care about immigration, but they care more about the economy, education and health care, said Gutierrez, whose coalition consists of Latino business owners. “The Republican Party needs to be engaged,” he said.