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AGC Comments on Senate Immigration Negotiations

April 3, 2013
In light of recent press reports – some conflicting and premature – on a bipartisan “deal” on immigration reform from the Senate “Gang of 8” AGC joined with other construction industry groups to comment on the industry’s view of the negotiations so far. The eight senators (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.)) continue to work on many elements of immigration reform, with the bulk of the discussions and the source of much consternation centering around 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, the construction groups commented on the current status of that component. The principles that have been agreed to by the Senators leave the construction industry as 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 and the statement released on April 3, 2012 by 6 national trade associations representing all aspects of the commercial and residential construction industries that the Senate negotiators are in the process of repeating the same mistakes of previous immigration reform attempts. While this is only one item in a multi-faceted comprehensive reform proposal, it is an extremely important issue for our industry. AGC hopes to be able to work with the Senate on a workable future temporary worker visa program along with the other comprehensive immigration priorities for the construction industry. Please visit the Legislative Action Center to send a letter to your Senators on opposing any effort to restrict construction from the temporary guest worker visa program. Should you have any questions, please contact Jim Young at youngj@agc.org
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