Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson said Tuesday the nation’s immigration problem “needs to be solved.”In an appearance on “CBS This Morning,” the head of the Atlanta-based carrier and one of the world’s largest airlines defended his company’s open support of President Barack Obama’s recent executive order extending protections to up to 5 million immigrants who may be in the country illegally.
Under the president’s order, work permits would be provided to undocumented immigrants with children who were born here or are legal permanent residents. The worker must have lived five years in the U.S., submit to background checks and pay taxes. The order shields affected immigrants from deportation, revamps law enforcement tactics and revises the visa system.
Anderson said immigration reform will help Delta, which has 80,000 employees around the world, attract talented employees who reflect the global communities the carrier serves.
“[Our] company needs to reflect the diversity and values and differences of all the people that we carry around the world,” Anderson told CBS hosts Charlie Rose, Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell.
Anderson indicated he’s been bombarded with emails since the company’s statement applauding Obama’s actions. “Well, if you’ve seen some of the emails I’ve gotten, you would sort of wonder why did I speak out about this,” he said on the show.
Delta’s open support has also drawn criticism at the state level.
“Since Delta Air Lines chooses to take political sides when it comes to supporting President Obama’s illegal immigrant executive order that waives certain laws he doesn’t like, then perhaps the Georgia legislature should finally waive the far- too-generous fuel tax breaks it gives to Delta,” Phil Kent, a member of the Georgia Immigration and Enforcement Review Board, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The state board investigates complaints related to illegal immigration.
In Georgia, an estimated 116,000 immigrants without legal status were raising U.S.-born children in 2012, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Delta said the reforms will provide economic development opportunities and enhance public safety by streamlining legal immigration.
“[We] are a country that was built by immigrants over decades, and to have six or seven million people living and working in our society and not have a solution to that problem, seems to me one that ought to be solved,” said Anderson, who said his grandparents were also immigrants.