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Business leaders launch coalition to advance sensible immigration policies

Thomas N. O’Brien, managing partner of The HYM Investment Group, said the coalition will promote fair, predictable immigration policies that reflect the importance of global talent to our economy.

Leaders from some of Massachusetts’ top business sectors came together today to launch the Massachusetts Business Coalition on Immigration, focused on advancing federal and state policies that enable talent from around the world to continue to thrive in our Commonwealth.

“From high tech to construction, health care to hospitality, immigrants are vital to Massachusetts’ economy,” said Thomas N. O’Brien, managing partner of The HYM Investment Group, which hosted the launch event in its Boston offices. “The xenophobic agenda coming out of Washington poses a direct threat to our position as a global hub of innovation and productivity. As business leaders, we cannot stand on the sidelines.”

The new group was born out of conversations with MIRA Executive Director Eva A. Millona. As employers increasingly feel the impact of Trump policies on their workforce, Millona saw an opportunity to mobilize together around common goals.

One in five workers in Massachusetts is foreign-born,” said Millona. “Major sectors of our economy depend on immigrants: from scientists, to drivers, to nurses’ aides. So when we fight to protect Dreamers, keep families together, and ensure immigrants are treated fairly by federal agencies, we’re fighting for the future of our Commonwealth. This coalition brings business voices to the table at a critical time.”  

Similar business coalitions are active in Illinois, Florida, Texas and Colorado. At the national level, the American Business Immigration Coalition works to provide a strong and effective voice for businesses in debates about immigration reform. All are strictly nonpartisan, with members across the political spectrum.

MIRA Executive Director Eva A. Millona thanked U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey for providing crucial guidance and support to the coalition in its start-up phase.

“Now more than ever, we need our Massachusetts business leaders to be outspoken champions for the value that immigrants add to our communities,” said U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey, who took part in the group’s inaugural meeting in August and joined them again for today’s launch. “Having as many business leaders add their voices to the national immigration debate is critical to ensuring that these law-abiding neighbors, coworkers, and friends do not recede into the shadows but are welcomed as full members of our economy. I thank MIRA for its leadership in convening our businesses leaders as a time when their voices could make the difference in finally attaining comprehensive immigration reform.”

Coalition members are committed to working together to address direct threats to their workforce, while also taking a moral stance: As citizens, they want to make it clear that they reject the politics of hate and fear, and they want to stand up for the most vulnerable people in our Commonwealth.

“We are eager to raise the level of our work to our Congressional delegation in order to safeguard all people in the Kendall Square community – including the incoming pipeline of talent that fuels this region from all over the world,” said Sarah Gallop, chair of the board of the Kendall Square Association. “We want to more effectively push back against policies that undermine Massachusetts’ economy and cause human suffering. And at the state level, we want to partner with Governor Baker and the Legislature to ensure that our state policies allow the families of our employees, partners, customers and neighbors to feel safe, valued and welcome.”

The coalition is still taking shape, with new members joining every week. Along with The HYM Investment Group and the Kendall Square Association, founding members include executives from Advoqt, Bain and Company, Boston Community Capital, Congruity, Eastern Bank, Everwood Camp Partners, Extension Engine, Fragomen Worldwide, Hybrid Valley, Matouk Inc., One Way Ventures, SGO (She Geeks Out), Shorelight Education, Windwalker Group, the Worcester Chamber of Commerce, and Xtalic, The group’s goal is to recruit 200 business leaders from across Massachusetts, representing a wide range of sectors.

The coalition’s policy agenda will be defined over the coming months. One key priority identified from the outset is to ensure that Massachusetts companies can hire the high-skilled workers they need, especially in STEM fields, and that foreign-born workers and entrepreneurs who want to contribute to our economy can stay and succeed here.

Coalition members are also committed to advocating for legal residency for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, to ensure that valued Haitian, Salvadoran and other employees are not torn out of our communities as soon as next summer. At the state level, a top priority will be to strengthen investments to support the economic integration of foreign-born workers – from English classes, to specialized workforce training programs – so immigrants can make full use of their skills and knowledge in the workplace.

Eveline Buchatskiy, managing partner of One Way Ventures, said the U.S. risks losing its global position as a magnet for tech entrepreneurs, as other countries step up to attract talent with more favorable policies.