Business Group Continues to be Concerned about attempts to limit the Scope of a Foreign Worker Program


The Essential Worker Immigration Coalition (EWIC) continues to be concerned about immigration proposals circulated in the last week designed to limit the scope of a lesser-skilled worker program.  As we have always said, 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.  In our view, the new program needs to provide employers in all industries with access to willing foreign workers when Americans are unable to fill all labor market demands.

In particular, we have learned that some have proposed precluding altogether ANY occupation that has a wage classification under the Davis Bacon Act.  DBA jobs include primarily construction jobs, but go beyond what one would normally think of typical jobs.  Here is a short list of what would be precluded:

BoilermakersBrick masons, Block masons, and Stonemasons; Carpenters;  Carpet, Floor, and Tile Installers and Finishers; Construction LaborersConstruction Equipment OperatorsPaving, Surfacing, and Tamping Equipment Operators;  Pile-Driver Operators; Electricians; Painters and Paperhangers; Pipe layers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters; Plasterers and Stucco Masons; Reinforcing Iron and Rebar Workers; RoofersSheet Metal WorkersStructural Iron and Steel WorkersConstruction and Building InspectorsElevator Installers and RepairersHighway Maintenance Workers; Rail-Track Laying and Maintenance Equipment Operators; Septic Tank Servicers and Sewer Pipe Cleaners; Welders.

EWIC’s members include trade associations and their employers that currently have workforce shortages in almost all of these occupations.  These employers deserve to be able to use a new future flow program once it is established.

If an employer conducts rigorous recruitment and seeks to fill a position with a U.S. worker first, why shouldn’t that employer have the option to use this new program?

 “This is a direct assault on a broad sector of our economy that is critical to any sustained recovery,” said Geoff Burr, VP Federal Affairs, Associated Builders and Contractors and Co-Chair of EWIC.  “Moreover, excluding a major component of the U.S. economy from any new visa program will surely be counterproductive to fixing our broken immigration system.”

We are also concerned with more expansive proposals to limit the program to only those lower skilled workers in Job Zones 1 and 2.  Job Zone 3 includes many occupations that EWIC members and companies think are essential to the health and growth of our economy.  Many Job Zone 3 positions typically require a least 1 year and up to 2 years of training or experience as a prerequisite.  Many of Job Zone 3 jobs that have “bright” futures according to BLS (job growth expected) and some that will be key to green economy activities.  If there are insufficient numbers of American workers going into these jobs we should welcome foreign workers into the U.S. to undertake this work.

Again, since access to the less skilled worker visa program is triggered only after a check with the domestic labor market, as more Americans get trained up and focused on areas of job growth then there would be even less of a need for foreign workers in these jobs.

In the meantime, until there are sufficient numbers of interested and available Job Zone 3 workers, the following is a short list of jobs that have “bright” futures according to expected job growth and are of the type which the business community needs covered by the new program:

  • Acute care nurses – bright
  • Animal breeders – bright
  • Critical care nurses – bright
  • Pharmacy technicians – bright
  • Occupational therapy aides – bright
  • Occupational therapy assistants – bright
  • Welders – bright and green
  • Manufacturing production technicians – bright and green
  • Industrial machinery mechanics – bright and green

This visa program must give employers, not the government, the primary say in which workers they need to staff their businesses after testing the U.S. labor market.  EWIC looks forward to continuing to work with Congress to ensure any new visa program for lesser-skilled workers meets the nation’s economic and immigration policy needs and does not repeat the mistakes of the 1986 immigration reform.

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.