Survey Results Underscore Importance of Immigration to California Economy

California Chamber of Commerce members have a strong sense of the importance of immigration–whether legal or undocumented—to the California economy, according to the recently completed survey.

The online survey, conducted from February 16 through February 28, showed that most CalChamber members either strongly agree (57.4%) or somewhat agree (24.6%) that U.S. immigration policy needs comprehensive reform.

Employer access to workers will be affected if border security is significantly tightened along the southern border without comprehensive reform of other elements of immigration policy, a sizable percentage of CalChamber members say.

The top impact identified was to the agricultural industry with 27.9% saying there would be a labor shortage for the agricultural industry and 13% saying access to legitimate H-2A visas for agricultural workers would be among the impacts from tighter southern border security without comprehensive immigration reform.

A labor shortage for the hospitality industry was identified as an impact by 15.8% of respondents and a labor shortage for the construction industry by 15.6% of respondents.

H-1B Visa

A sizable portion of CalChamber members say a cutback in the H-1B visa program will have either a strong negative impact (7.5%) or some negative impact (15.4%) on their company’s access to workers.

The largest number of companies saying an H-1B visa program cutback would have a negative impact come from the manufacturing industry, closely following by business/personal services, health care, information/communications/networks and construction.

The companies citing the negative impact from an H-1B visa program cutback were located throughout the state and had workforces of all sizes, from small (20 or fewer employees) to mid-size (51–100 or 101–250) to large (501–999 and 1,000 or more).

Criteria to Stay in U.S.

In identifying the criteria that undocumented/illegal workers should meet in order to be allowed to remain in the United States, CalChamber members were consistent in the relative ranking of the criteria between today and in the 2006 survey responses.

Topping the list is passing a national security and criminal background check, according to 80.7% of members responding, an increase of more than 7 percentage points from the 73% choosing that option in 2006.

In the same vein, 74.8% of respondents this year said workers should have no criminal convictions (this choice was not listed in the 2006 survey).

In descending order, other important criteria according to the survey are (2006 response in parentheses):

• Paid all federal and state taxes: 72.3% (68%);

• Demonstrated a knowledge of the English language and American civics requirements: 49.9% (59%);

• Lived in U.S. for at least 5 years: 43.9% (43%);

• Worked a minimum of 3 years in the U.S.: 38.3% (40%);

• Paid a reasonable fine, in addition to required application fees: 35.9% (34%);

• Be an immediate family member of a documented/legal worker or legal resident: 28.4% (23%);

• Registered for military selection service: 24.4% (27%);

There was a 10.3 percentage point drop in those who said undocumented/illegal workers should not be allowed to remain in the U.S. under any circumstances—13.7% today versus 24% in 2006.

Border Security

The percentage of members strongly agreeing that providing greater border security is important as a line of defense against illegal immigration has dropped significantly, from 62% in 2006 to 45.3% today, although the percentage somewhat agreeing with the statement remained about level—23% in 2006 versus 24.1% today.

One member commented that there is “better access via air and ocean already in existence.”


The survey showed a shift in member sentiments about deportation. Today, 53.8% of members strongly agree with the statement: “It is financially unrealistic and logistically impossible to deport the estimated 11 million undocumented residents (about 2.67 million in California) currently in the U.S.” Another 17.7% somewhat agree with the statement.

In 2006, 45% of members strongly agreed with the statement and another 24% somewhat agreed with the statement.

General Comment

One comment neatly summarizes the attitudes of a majority of survey respondents:

“All employers need workers. We do not have enough people to do the jobs citizens do not want to do. The main point is that we need border security to fight against criminals and terrorism, but we need good workers too. Together we need to find a way for the country to provide for both needs. Deporting millions of people makes no sense whatsoever. It would be a logistical nightmare, cost a fortune, disrupt business, the economy and EVERYONE’s lives at all levels.”