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Immigration Reform Threatens Construction Industry

In light of recent press reports—some conflicting and premature—on a bipartisan “deal” on immigration reform from the Senate “Gang of Eight,” AGC joined with other construction industry groups to comment on the industry’s view of the negotiations thus 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, so far, is 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 areas still need to be agreed upon by both the Gang of Eight and the committee before any reform bill can be put to a vote on the Senate floor. Thus, the reports of a “done deal” are extremely premature.

Because the temporary guest worker program 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 Gang of Eight leave the construction industry as the only industry severely limited from making 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 tried to use their influence with certain 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 such efforts to completely exclude construction from the program have been rejected.

However, the number of visas for construction occupations would be severely restricted, limited to just the lowest skilled occupations. AGC is concerned that 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 the new government bureau created by this legislation could restrict the construction industry use of the program even further. AGC believes the construction industry should not be singled out for these kinds of restrictions, which is why these six national trade associations – representing all aspects of the commercial and residential construction industries – released a statement Wednesday, April 3, highlighting the fact that 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, penalties for violations, path to legal status, preemption of state and local laws and employee verification.

Since Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is on the “Gang of Eight” committee, it is important that we get the word to him that certain provisions being considered are totally biased against construction, especially the temporary worker visa provisions.

Please visit AGC’s Legislative Action Center to send a letter to your Senators on opposing any effort to restrict construction from the temporary guest worker visa program. IT IS A VERY EASY PROCESS AND TAKES JUST A FEW MINUTES TO SEND A MESSAGE.

To access AGC’s Legislative Action Center and send a message to your Senator, go to Send Your Message 

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