Despite a major setback in a Senate vote Thursday, the Bush administration's point man on pushing bi-partisan immigration reform, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, says the measure will be resubmitted.
In a speech to a business audience in Washington Friday Gutierrez said immigration reform is essential and the measure is still alive. Legislation crafted by the White House and key members of Senate of both parties failed Thursday as several Republicans object to the measure that could provide amnesty to several million immigrants illegally working in the United States.
Gutierrez, who migrated from Cuba as a boy, is the former chief executive of Kellogg, the breakfast food company. He said the pro-reform movement led by the president is not giving up. He said it is essential that an immigration measure to passed this year, ahead of the 2008 election year, a time when politicians typically run away from controversial measures.
"We have a president who wants to deal with it. We have a president who wants to face up to it and tackle it do it now," he said.
Gutierrez said without a steady flow of immigrants, the growth rate of the U.S. economy will be held back by as much as one percent annually. "There are jobs in this country that aren't getting filled. And unless we have a way of filling those jobs we're going to be in trouble," he said.
Several Washington insiders say the Senate defeat effectively dooms immigration reform for this year. The measure is fiercely controversial in large part because it could allow amnesty to the over ten million illegal immigrants currently in the United States. The political firestorm surrounding the amnesty provision prompted several Republicans to abandon their support of the measure. Many conservatives, who have been the biggest supporters of President Bush's war policies, have turned against him on immigration.