Construction Leaders Call for Immigration Solutions to Alleviate Unprecedented Labor Shortage and Inflation
Construction industry leaders urged lawmakers to pass legislation that will create a method for unauthorized immigrants to earn legal status in a recent letter sent by the American Business Immigration Coalition to the President and Congressional leaders.
The letter explained that legislation currently included in the budget bill that would allow 7 million immigrants to earn temporary legal status and work permits would help to alleviate labor shortages and reduce rampant inflation. For now, the fate of this legislation awaits a ruling from the Senate Parliamentarian on whether it abides by budget reconciliation guidelines.
The construction leaders also called on lawmakers to work on passing a solution to create a method for the 11 million authorized immigrants living in the US to earn permanent legal status, citing a study that shows such a solution would have significant economic and fiscal benefits
The construction industry is no stranger to workforce shortages, with over 410,000 open jobs in October. As a result of labor shortages, high consumer demand, and COVID-related shutdowns of ports and factories, it has experienced extraordinary delivery delays and materials cost increases over the last year.
The construction industry is also held back by a high rate of worker misclassification, and unauthorized immigrant workers are often hired as independent contractors or kept off the books and paid in cash. This allows unscrupulous employers to undercut and underbid firms that file and treat workers like employees, provide benefits, and pay employment taxes. If unauthorized immigrants were allowed to obtain work permits, they could work for employers that pay their fair share in taxes and provide health insurance. This would also help to ensure that those workers pay income taxes.
The full text of the Construction Leaders’ letter to the President and Congressional leaders can be read below:
The White House Washington, D. C. 20500
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi United States House Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Chuck Schumer, Majority Leader United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Mr. President, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Schumer,
As construction industry and infrastructure leaders and members of the bipartisan American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC), we write to you with great urgency in support of legislation that would provide a path to citizenship and, minimally, work permits for undocumented workers in the U.S. in order to address dire labor shortages that are a contributing factor to unmet consumer demand and rising inflation -- issues that may be amplified by the bipartisan infrastructure law.
The immigration proposal now pending would allow about 7 million temporary permits for immigrants without documents to remain in the U.S. and work. This is a good first step towards easing the need for good workers. But we need more. Congress must pass permanent immigration solutions so that President Biden's landmark, bipartisan, $1.2 trillion infrastructure investment program, which we greatly support, can be completed in a timely manner and help our economy during the post-COVID-19 period. Studies show permanent legal status for America's 11 million undocumented immigrants would add $121 billion per year into the U.S. economy each year, yielding an additional $31 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues.
Indeed, immigrant workers are a critical component for calming the current hike in inflation. Labor shortages result in construction delays, higher production costs, and lower inventory levels, which all lead to inflation. Why are we not allowing immigrants who have lived here for 20 years on average, and have U.S.-citizen children, apply for permanent legalization and citizenship? As an ABIC battleground poll showed, voters support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants by a 3-to-1 margin, even if part of a reconciliation bill advanced by one political party.
From our standpoint, temporary permits are worthy but offer no assurance that our employees can stabilize their lives with their families and grow their careers with us. As we have seen with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, their lives are in limbo, wondering if a new presidential action or court order could lead to their deportations to countries they do not know.
As you schedule votes in coming days and weeks, remember that immigrants are the solution, not the problem, to growing our economy and bringing down inflation. They are worthy of long-term solutions as well.
Steve Chanen, President & CEO, Chanen Construction Company, Inc. - Arizona Raul Estrada, CEO, Marcer Construction - Texas
Stan Marek, CEO, Marek Family of Companies - Texas
J. Doug Pruitt, Retired Chairman, Sundt Construction - Arizona
Kevin Smith, Vice President, Unforgettable Coatings, Inc. - Utah
Khalid Muneer, President, Jupiter Properties Inc., Orlando, Florida
Sergio Pino, President & CEO, Century Homebuilders Group, Miami, Florida
Kerem Durdag, President and Chief Operating Officer, GWI, Inc., Maine
Mark Ouellette, CEO, Axiom Technologies, Maine
Jacqueline Gomez, Executive Director, Hispanic American Construction Industry Association