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120+ business leaders/employers call for letting states seek work permits for long-term contributors and new immigrants to ease labor shortage and inflation

Washington—Concerned about inaction on immigration reform that could boost the economy and productivity, more than 120 U.S. business leaders and employers penned a letter urging President Biden to allow states to seek work permits for long-term immigrant contributors of our nation and new immigrants to fill labor shortages and reduce inflation for all Americans. 

The letter to President Biden, following calls from Bipartisan Governors, was signed by 126 major construction, manufacturing, agriculture, landscaping, and restaurant industry leaders and employers, as well as small business owners and chambers of commerce who have recorded 10.1M unfilled, non-farm positions at the end of April, and 4 percent inflation as of May. In farming, the U.S Department of Agriculture found that only 80 percent of the needed immigrant visas have been filled in recent years, worsening the labor shortage for the industry.

“We’re crying out with one voice to Washington: We need more workers or we’re in big trouble.” said Janille Baker, Controller for Baker Ranch located in Utah and Nevada. “Agriculture in my region and nationwide is so understaffed that the U.S. is poised to become a net importer of farm goods for the first time ever. That means we’ll be importing more food than we’re exporting, and that is not good for national growth or security. A nation that cannot feed itself is not secure.”

In the letter, the business operators noted their years-long struggles with labor shortages, bureaucratic delays in the processing of visas for foreign workers, and other issues stemming from the outdated immigration system.

“We respectfully request that you expand a special category of immigration permits for individuals who can fill positions where labor shortages exist, for people migrating to the U.S. and long-term immigrant contributors like Dreamers, farm workers, and essential workers,” stated the letter by employers from regions across the U.S. “When we all work together, our economy will work for all of us. Immigrants are here to work.”

Among the plans being advanced are one by Republican governors, Eric Holcomb of Indiana and Spencer Cox of Utah, which would allow states to request work visas for immigrant workers for specific jobs. U.S Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) support the idea, as does New York Governor Kathy Hochul.

“The governors’ proposal to shore up in-state labor markets would go a long way toward stabilizing the economy and alleviating inflation,” said Rebecca Shi, Executive Director, American Business Immigration Coalition. “The plan also would provide dignity, security and a modicum of protections for our nation’s immigrant residents – people who have labored for years without official permits; contributing their work and hard-earned dollars to the economic security of our nation that also is their home.”

The plan would allow immigrants to be treated humanely with robust protections for native born workers while businesses are provided the ability to ramp up production and help state and national economies.

“There’s no better feeling than keeping manufacturing in the U.S.,” said Lisa Winton, CEO of Winton Machine Company in Suwanee, Georgia. “But we simply don’t have enough labor to do that right now. Meanwhile, Georgia and many other states are home to countless immigrant workers, both newcomers and long term contributors, who want nothing more than to work hard, legally so, in their new homeland. Why wouldn’t we unlock this tremendous resource? We call on the Biden administration, and Georgia Gov. Kemp, to work on this bipartisan solution for the sake of our economy.”

The need for immediate action is underscored by economic data and reports from employers who are suffering losses due to worker shortages. In addition to the 10.1 million non-farm job openings at the end of April reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, economists have estimated that two years of lost immigration is responsible for nearly half of the workers missing from the labor force. In May, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce showed that between 20 and 60 percent of jobs remained unfilled in key work sectors including manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, financial services, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality.

“A sharp drop in immigration in recent years continues to set my and other North Carolina businesses back,” said John OswaldPresident/CEO, Mills Manufacturing, Asheville, North Carolina. “We desperately need to staff up to meet minimum staffing levels, which is critical to support our existing workforce and to remain viable. We support and rely on a diversity of backgrounds and cultures to make our company successful, and we face continued economic insecurity unless we allow states the opportunity to build their workforce through increased immigration.”

The employers are turning to President Biden for relief, as frustration with congressional inaction on immigration reform intensifies.

“Livestock producers in Kansas and elsewhere have faced severe labor shortages for many years,” said Matt Teagarden, CEO, Kansas Livestock Association. “Much-needed agricultural and farm guest worker visa reform failed to pass Congress late last year. Our industry’s job openings rate is dangerously high. We need the Biden administration to let Kansas and other states sponsor work authorization for the many immigrant workers, including those already here,” Teagarden added.

The economic hurt caused by the labor shortage extends across many industries, said Jenni Tilton-Flood, Flood Brothers Farm, Maine.

“Agriculture and our food system are not the only sector in Maine experiencing a labor shortage and struggling to meet the needs of the economy and our communities. As we head into the summer tourist season hospitality businesses are short-staffed. We’ve even heard that broadband expansion in the state is jeopardized by a lack of trained hands, and in a state where only 13% of residents have sufficient access to high speed internet, that’s a roadblock to success and progress,” Tilton-Flood said, in support of finding new ways to let immigrants get work permits. “We are urging the Biden administration to let Maine and other states close the gap between our state’s overwhelming labor needs and the current shortfall,” she added.

ABOUT

ABIC Action is the political arm of the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC), a bipartisan coalition of over 1,200+ CEOs, business owners, and trade associations across 17 mostly red and purple states. ABIC Action promotes common sense immigration reform that advances economic competitiveness, provides companies with both the high-skilled and low-skilled talent they need, and allows the integration of immigrants into our economy as consumers, workers, entrepreneurs, and citizens.