no one disagrees that we have a broken system."
Among other things, generally, the legislation must address a shortage of workers in certain industries; look at the millions of undocumented workers and their families, the U.S. economy and "our loftier goals," she said.
Lawmakers should take their cue from faith groups, she said, because they include core values that "need to be reflected in our federal policies" but often are overwhelmed by economic concerns.
Addressing modernizing existing law, Fennelly said it was "essential" to address the sometimes decades-long delay in bringing family members to the United States.
"That's just insane," she said. "Who can be separated that long?"
Asked about what issues also should be considered, Fennelly said some topics need more attention than they've been given so far the immigration debate, such as opportunities for more refugees to come to America. Also, helping immigrants integrate into the American way of life is important, she said.
Another area deserving more discussion is underemployment at various levels, as well as training programs and better credentialing programs.
"We have the cliche of the cab driver who's an engineer and that has a lot of truth," she said.
Finally, "We've got to stop putting immigrants into detention for violating immigration status," she said, noting that many institutions aren't meeting voluntary standards for detention and some reportedly are abusing immigrants.
"Really, though, the most successful bill would be broader in scope and let the details be developed later," Fennelly said.
The Small Business Majority said its recent survey indicated nearly nine in 10 small business owners believe the current immigration system isn't working.
"Our primary job creators agree something must be done because immigration is good for America and good for small business," the Small Business Majority report said.
Across all industries and political persuasions, small-business owners said they recognize that without comprehensive immigration reform, U.S. small businesses and the economy cannot maximize job creation or revenue generation, the SMB survey said.
Eighty-four percent of small-business owners said they support the Gang of Eight's work.
Two-thirds of respondents also agree immigration reform would be good for small businesses by establishing a qualified, trained and stable work force, the survey indicated. Another two-thirds said they believe immigrant entrepreneurs drive new business growth.
"This is an exciting time," Fennelly said.
She said when she teaches a class or otherwise discusses immigration she talks about what's headlining the news, such as demographic growth trends toward aging, and its relevance to immigration policies.
Developing a pool of workers to replace a retiring workforce can include new, young immigrants to help fill the need for "young workers who will be coming in and paying taxes and paying into system," she said.
"Sometimes," Fennelli said, "we have parallel conversations without seeing the overlap."
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