(TruthAndLiberty.com) – A group of business leaders is urging the Biden administration to take decisive action in response to labor shortages that are posing a significant threat to various industries. In a letter addressed to President Biden, 126 employers and business leaders have called for the expansion of a special category of immigration permits to address the shortage of labor.
Rebecca Shi, the executive director of the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC), pointed out the existing authority under the Department of Homeland Security to expand work authorizations during challenging times, citing the provision of significant public benefits. Employers argue that the acute labor shortage, which has left 10.5 million jobs unfilled, is leading to inflation and adversely affecting the lives of everyday Americans.
The ABIC, in its collective effort, also supports a proposal that would grant states the ability to participate in visa allocation. They highlighted a plan put forth by Republican governors Eric Holcomb of Indiana and Spencer Cox of Utah, which would enable states to “sponsor” immigrant workers. This approach would allow individual states to determine the required number of visas each year for specific job categories. The letter emphasized the need for Congress to take action on immigration policy and end the longstanding stalemate, with the governors pledging their willingness to share responsibility in shaping immigration policy.
Although the proposal, initially introduced by Representative John Curtis (R-Utah) in 2019, has not gained significant traction in the wider discourse on immigration policy, it carries the risk of generating opposition from the conservative wing of the Republican Party.
Certain industries heavily depend on immigration reform to function within the boundaries of the law, and employers in these sectors support Republicans who take such risks. Steve Obert, the executive director of Indiana Dairy Producers, acknowledged the influence of conservative voters on Republican elected officials, particularly in the Midwest, while commending Governor Holcomb’s leadership and his suggestion that states could handle immigration matters more effectively than the federal government.
The ABIC’s letter represents a diverse range of industries, including construction, manufacturing, agriculture, landscaping, and restaurants, all of which heavily rely on immigrant labor. Lisa Winton, CEO of Winton Machine Company in Suwanee, Ga., emphasized the importance of keeping manufacturing in the U.S., but highlighted the shortage of labor that currently hinders that goal. She argued that many immigrant workers residing in states like Georgia are eager to contribute legally through hard work and should be given the opportunity to do so.
Frustration with the inflexible immigration system is mounting among employers due to labor shortages. Steve Obert voiced his frustration with the commonly expressed sentiment that border issues need to be resolved first, pointing out that establishing a legal framework for controlled immigration could potentially contribute to addressing border challenges.
Industries such as livestock, particularly the dairy sector, actively advocate for immigration reform since the existing work visas available to foreign laborers do not align with their requirements. Livestock operations necessitate year-round labor that requires time and financial investment for training. However, agricultural visas are only available on a seasonal basis, and there is a shortage of U.S. citizens seeking such jobs and the associated lifestyle.
Steve Obert highlighted the specific challenges faced when training foreign workers, including ensuring that applicants possess basic literacy skills, can follow safety instructions, and operate machinery. However, young immigrants demonstrate willingness to learn and exhibit appreciation for having a job. They bring openness and a sense of fulfillment to their work, knowing that they are valued by the employers or families they work for.
Due to the absence of suitable visa categories, the dairy industry increasingly relies on undocumented labor, prioritizing the necessity of the work over legal considerations. Milking cows, feeding them, and ensuring their well-being are tasks that must be performed daily. Creating a legal framework for this labor to happen would greatly benefit family-owned dairy farms in Indiana and across the nation, according to Steve Obert.
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