DC Influencer: Brent Wilkes, executive director, the League of United Latin American Citizens

Brent Wilkes, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, discusses business' role in the immigration debate with Jaimy Lee.

What are some of the main messages your organization has been focusing on when speaking to policymakers about immigration?

Wilkes: Our main message is that we have a broken system and we need to fix it for our own interests, as well as for the benefit of immigrants hoping to come to the US legally.

What's the value in using the web and social media on an issue such as Arizona's immigration bill?

Wilkes: With Unite Arizona, we are not only able to reach out to the folks in Arizona, but also to the larger Latino population throughout the country.

They may not be able to participate in a march or go to a conference or workshop about the issue, but they can go online and support the campaign by taking the pledge to boycott tourism in the state.

Is there a role companies can take? Do you see them as being helpful in pushing your cause?

Wilkes: They can be very important on a number of different levels. What surprises me is that they haven't been more active, presumably because they consider it to be a con- troversial issue. Usually, when their bottom lines are being threatened, they get involved.

Do you expect more companies to get involved?

Wilkes: We hope so. We're talking about their workers, their ability to have a business license in the state of Arizona. There's a law now that says if you're caught twice with an undocumented worker they'll take away your business license.

These kinds of laws would normally be vigorously opposed by the chambers of commerce and other business groups. We anticipate they will get more involved because this obviously affects them as much as anyone else. Not only that, they're influential with more conservative members of Congress.

Are you reaching out to companies that could be affected by this law?

Wilkes: We've reached out to quite a few companies directly. There's a business campaign called the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition. They are perhaps the best employers, who have really said, "We're not just going to keep letting this happen. We're going to step in and advocate for our businesses."

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