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ZAREMBERG.JPGThe stalled effort in Congress to overhaul the nation's immigration system is more important for California's economy than any other state's, the head of the California Chamber of Commerce said Friday.

In a video likely aimed at Republicans, Allan Zaremberg, CalChamber's president, says California's members of Congress should dominate the debate instead of lawmakers from other states.

"They can't let somebody else who doesn't have a stake in this determine the outcome," he said.

The Senate approved a comprehensive immigration bill last month on a bipartisan vote of 68-32, but the Republican-majority House of Representatives plans to propose its own version.

The most conservative members of the chamber say the Senate bill isn't tough enough on border security, and many object to establishing a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, including 2.6 million in California.

CalChamber and 40 local chambers of commerce support stronger border security, a temporary guest-worker program for both high- and low-skill jobs, strict employer verification and an earned pathway to citizenship.

California needs both high-skilled workers for its technology sector and low-skilled workers for its agricultural sector, Zaremberg said, and urged Congress to get something done this year.

While most of the 38 Democrats in California's House delegation are more likely to support the Senate bill, it's the 15 Republicans who could prove the most influential. One of them, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, is part of the House Republican leadership team.

On Thursday, dozens of activists rallied outside McCarthy's office in Bakersfield, calling for the House to vote on the Senate bill.

According to McCarthy's website, he supports a secure border and opposes what many conservatives call "amnesty" for those who are in the country illegally.

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, said in an April forum in Modesto that he supported a guest-worker program for farm workers, and "earned legal status" for those who qualify.

Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, has called the Senate bill "not perfect," adding, "but it is a start."

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, has consistently opposed a path to citizenship, saying the country already has one: legal immigration.

PHOTO: California Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Allan Zaremberg, in 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.


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