News

An Update on Immigration Reform

April 1, 2013
In light of recent press reports - some conflicting and premature - on a bipartisan “deal” on immigration reform we wanted to provide you with an update on the status of those discussions along with the impact for the construction industry. The group of eight Senators are: Schumer (D-N.Y.), McCain (R-Ariz.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Graham (R-S.C.), Menendez (D-N.J.), Rubio (R-Fla.), Bennet (D-Colo.), and Flake (R-Ariz.). While they are working on many elements of immigration reform, the bulk of the discussions and the source of much consternation has centered on a future temporary worker visa program. Other important parts of immigration reform that AGC continues to lobby on include the Employment Eligibility Verification Provisions; the Legalization Provisions; and the Conversion to Permanent Residence Provisions from the Temporary Worker Program.  These important areas still need to be agreed upon by the gang of eight and the committee. Only then can the program be put to a vote on the senate floor. Thus, the reports of a “done deal” are extremely premature. Because the temporary guest worker is the closest to completion, we can report on the current status of that component. Several principles have been agreed to and the construction industry is the only industry severely limited  from making much use of the planned temporary worker visa program. The construction industry would have its own program within the system with different available occupations, triggers and limits on visas compared to all other industries.  The building trades unions have used their influence with Democratic Senators to significantly limit the opportunity for construction firms to utilize a guest worker program. They initially tried to block any visas for construction occupations, but the GOP Senators pushed back against efforts to totally exclude construction. The number of visas for construction occupations would be severely restricted, limited to just the lowest skilled occupations. AGC is concerned the attractiveness of work in the construction industry for many immigrants will be severely limited, even in the strongest of economic cycles.  AGC is also worried that a new government bureau will declare the number of visas for industries and may restrict the construction industry even further. AGC believes the construction industry should not be singled out for these kind of restrictions. While this is only one item in a multi-faceted comprehensive reform proposal, it is an extremely important issue for our industry. We will continue to advance the interests of the construction industry as the process continues.  AGC will continue to keep membership informed throughout the legislative process. If you have any questions or would like additional information, please do not hesitate to contact Jim Young at youngj@agc.org.
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