Comprehensive immigration reform is essential to maintaining and building a strong, healthy U.S. economy. Every facet of our economy today relies on the hard work and productivity of the immigrant workforce. And even with millions of immigrant workers, the US economy is strong and employment is high and unemployment remains low.
Our current immigration laws and quotas are out of date, unworkable, and limit growth to the economy. Comprehensive immigration reform is needed to strengthen the economy, keep American businesses competitive with their foreign rivals, and protect American workers. We need real reform, and real solutions, for a strong economy.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Participation in the labor force is very high for undocumented immigrant men—94%. This compares with 83% for native-born men.
- Undocumented immigrants account for nearly 5% of the entire U.S. labor force. No one has calculated the cost of losing 5% of our labor force.
- Certain occupations have a very high concentration of undocumented workers. For example, approximately 25% or more of all drywall installers, meat and poultry workers, ground maintenance workers, and construction laborers are undocumented workers.
- Only 4% of undocumented workers are employed in agriculture.
- Deporting 8-9 million undocumented immigrants would cost more than $200 billion over five years—more than double the annual budget of the entire Homeland Security Department.
- It would take 200,000 buses, bumper-to-bumper, in a convoy 1,700 miles long, to transport our undocumented immigrants to the border.
Protecting American and Immigrant Workers
Comprehensive immigration reform is need to take the unregulated, illegal, and disorderly flow of unscreened and unauthorized workers and replace it with a legal, orderly, limited flow of vetted and authorized workers. When a small number of corrupt employers are able to flaunt the system, it creates a race to the bottom that hurts wages and working conditions for all blue collar and low-wage workers, native-born and immigrant alike. To avoid the exploitation and abuses of flawed guest workers programs, the nation needs a “break-the-mold” worker visa program that adequately protects the wages and working conditions of U.S. and immigrant workers.
Preserving the Agricultural Industry
Agriculture’s one of the largest and most important sectors of the American economy, and it is in our national interest to have a stable, predictable, and prosperous farming industry. But the current system is riddled with bureaucracy and is too slow to respond to the rapidly fluctuating need for agricultural workers. A comprehensive approach to immigration reform would include AgJOBS legislation with a two-step earned legalization program for undocumented farm-workers.
Keeping highly-skilled workers in the United States
We cannot meet the demand for high-skilled labor by relying solely on American workers. Yet many highly-skilled workers that want to come to the United States are turned away because of outdated policies. These workers are often educated in the United States and would help make American companies more competitive in the global marketplace. It just doesn’t make sense to set quotas so low that American businesses are forced to sit back and watch as they lose talent to foreign competition.
Meeting the demand for lower-skilled service workers
As the baby boomers are beginning to retire, and younger Americans are entering the work force with higher levels of education and greater skills than ever before, there’s a growing need for lower-skilled service workers. This isn’t a case of immigrants taking American jobs; it’s a case of immigrants filling holes left in the job market when Americans take higher-paying and higher-skilled jobs. Unfortunately, there are not enough visas to meet the demands of today’s economy, and most of the ones that are available are only for seasonal work. This creates the large flow of illegal immigration, and the dangers, problems and national security concerns that come with it.
The number of visas available for workers able to meet the needs of American employers is insufficient in several visa categories. This is most notable in the category reserved for workers coming to fill jobs that don’t require high skills. Only 5,000 visas are available per year for permanent workers of this kind, and this has created a heavy demand for the labor of undocumented immigrants. In recent years, there has also been a greater demand for temporary workers than the current annual cap accommodates. In Fiscal Year 2006 (ending September 2006), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reached the yearly quota for skilled temporary workers (coming on H-1B visas) by May 26—four months before the end of the Fiscal Year. For seasonal workers, in Fiscal Year 2007, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it received a sufficient number of petitions to reach the congressionally mandated H-2B cap for the first six months of the Fiscal Year a little more than two months in to the year.