The Essential Worker Immigration Coalition appreciates any effort to address the problems with our broken immigration system and remind Americans of the urgent need for immigration reform. But as representatives of business owners who rely on less-skilled immigrant workers to keep their businesses open and contributing to the economy, we are deeply concerned about some proposals that have been circulated in recent weeks, including the idea of an appointed commission to determine “worker shortages” and decide the number of foreign workers to be admitted to the U.S. every year.
EWIC supports a reform package that secures the borders, reinforces the rule of law, creates a legal employment-based foreign-worker program, protects U.S. workers and provides a path to earned legalization for qualifying unauthorized foreign born workers already in the United States.
A critical element of a reform package is a program to supply the U.S. economy with the workers it needs to recover from the downturn and grow in years ahead, replacing the current unlawful influx with a legal workforce. This visa program must give employers, not the government, the primary say in which workers they need to staff their businesses and give the labor market, not Congress or a commission, the primary say in how many workers enter the country annually in a legal program.
U.S. employers do not support creation of a commission or other bureaucratic entity that would be charged with playing a role in attempting to micro-manage the American economy.
The marketplace can best make these determinations. The most accurate way to measure whether immigrant workers are needed is for employers to try – and either succeed or fail – to hire U.S. workers. No government body can or should pick economic winners and losers. And no government body can be trusted to set wages efficiently – in a manner that attracts workers to the slots where they will contribute most to the economy.
Specifically, creating a commission to set visa quotas is a concern because:
The data does not exist to assess the economy’s need for immigrant workers.
* The U.S. Department of Labor does not predict labor shortages.
* The best data we have about future labor needs is updated by the federal government only every two years – far too infrequently to predict whether a specific business in a specific location can fill an empty job in real time. The federal government generates only national data – far too crude a tool to determine local labor needs. And no matter how accurate, no statistical data can substitute for the kind of information generated by the invisible hand of the market – actual employers across America trying to hire workers to operate their businesses.
The government cannot effectively predict booms and busts.
* Even with unlimited resources, a data-driven commission would not be able to predict shortages or workforce needs in real time.
* Forecasting job growth is not a simple accounting exercise. It requires a detailed and accurate economic forecast of local conditions based on the future demand for an economic sector, which in turn can be reduced or increased by the job growth itself. It is unlikely a commission would be able to provide real-time, local forecasts on an accurate basis for all markets in the nation.
The government cannot predict technical innovation or the jobs it creates.
Washington commissions are never truly insulated from politics. Far more often, they transpose politics to another arena – one where the players are less accountable to voters.
Data is hard to come by and often out of date. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data is not specific enough or collected frequently enough.
* BLS does not project future labor shortages. It makes labor force projections and employment projections, but only every two years and only on a national basis. The agency itself cautions that these statistics should not be used to predict labor shortages.
* BLS issues a monthly job turnover survey, but it includes only the total number of job openings in the U.S. – and while the information is broken down by industry, it does not break down the information by specific occupation or state or metro area.
* BLS no longer collects jobs data for 65 smaller metropolitan areas.
* Unemployment information for occupations is available only on a yearly basis, and even then the occupational data is only in very broad categories and on a national basis.
EWIC is also concerned about the scope of the proposed program for less-skilled foreign workers. In our view, the new program needs to include any employer unable to find sufficient numbers of American workers in any occupation not currently covered by other nonimmigrant visa categories. Proposals to limit the new program to only those jobs that require little or no skill will only perpetuate one of the shortcomings of the Immigration Act of 1986 – leaving large numbers of foreign workers without a legal nonimmigrant visa option to enter the U.S. This would guarantee that many employers who need access to foreign workers are excluded from the program and have no legal avenue to recruit foreign workers when not enough U.S. workers are willing or available.
EWIC looks forward to working with Congress to pass a balanced, bipartisan reform package that meets the needs of employers, immigrants, U.S. workers and the U.S. economy.
Action Visa Assistance
American Health Care Association
American Horse Council
American Hotel & Lodging Association
American Meat Institute
American Nursery & Landscape Association
American Staffing Association
Associated Builders and Contractors
Association General Contractors of America
California Landscape Contractors Association
California Professional Association of Specialty Contractors
Federation of Employers & Workers of America
Golf Course Superintendents Association of America
Greenberg Traurig LLP
Ingersoll Rand Company
International Franchise Association
Marriott International, Inc.
National Association of Home Builders
National Club Association
National Council of Chain Restaurants
National Multi Housing Council
National Retail Federation
National Roofing Contractors Association
Outdoor Amusement Business Association
Professional Landcare Network
Retail Industry Leaders Association
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council
Society of American Florists
The Tree Care Industry Association
Tysons Food Inc.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
United Fresh Produce Association
EWIC is a broad-based coalition of national businesses and trade associations from across the industry spectrum concerned with the shortage of both semi-skilled and unskilled (“essential worker”) labor. EWIC supports policies that facilitate the employment of essential workers by U.S. companies that are unable to find American workers.