Many companies in many industries need more workers, yet the U.S. immigration process is too slow and complex to meet the demand. Congress must step up and address the problem in a bipartisan fashion.
So said four expert panelists at a May 12 program, “COVID-19 and the Great Resignation: Immigration Policy and the U.S. Labor Market,” co-sponsored by the American Bar Association Commission on Immigration and the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice.
The experts accused Congress of lacking the courage to reform the nation’s immigration system to help American businesses.
“Every company that we hear from is concerned about having enough workers to meet their needs,” said Jon Baselice, vice president of immigration policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “They can’t grow, they can’t take on new work and, in the worst cases, if they can’t find enough workers, they either have to downsize or they have to delay buying new equipment. All this stuff, when you add it all up, harms the ability of the economy to grow.”
The shortage of workers could be partly alleviated, panelists agreed, if companies could bring in workers from abroad, but the U.S. immigration system is too slow and too complex to address current concerns.
“You go and talk to anybody at any office anywhere in the United States and, frankly, anywhere around the world and they’re going to say we need help,” said Jonathan Grode, managing partner of Green and Spiegel LLC, an immigration law firm based in Philadelphia. “We need workers. There is a labor shortage in practically every single industry.”
Katie Boston-Leary, director of nursing programs with the American Nurses Association,
said one study found 20% of health care workers in some states had quit since the pandemic began, including 30% of nurses. Getting more nurses from overseas “is definitely a strategy,” she added, but obtaining a green card for new nurses can take up to two years.
The solution, panelists agreed, is for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, instead of trying to tackle the problem piecemeal with smaller, individual bills, as have been proposed in recent years.
“It’s just really a matter of finding the courage, the political will to do the right thing,” said Ted Hutchinson, Florida state director of Forward.us, a bipartisan political team that works on policy, advocacy and technology issues.
Baselice agreed: “I would hope that once the passions die down, you start realizing we are having a situation economically where this is, across the country, (companies) can’t meet their workforce needs. We need to get real about right-sizing the immigration system.”
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