Immigration Reform

OVERVIEW

As Congress continues to pursue reforms to fix our nation’s broken immigration system, ABC is committed to supporting immigration policies that address the workforce needs of the construction industry.

ABC opposes illegal immigration and has advocated in favor of changes in immigration law to address growing problems of the legal immigration system in the United States and allow for much-needed access to legal and qualified temporary foreign workers.

While ABC continues to promote the construction industry as a viable career choice for hardworking Americans through the expansion of apprenticeship programs and career and technical education, as improvements in our economy results in higher demand for construction services, our members continue to face systemic labor shortages of qualified workers and craft professionals. While any successful immigration reform measures must work to ensure the enforcement of our laws, security of our borders and prosperity of our economy; modernizing our immigration system must also allow for an adequate amount of legal immigration and access to foreign-born workers to effectively address the workforce demands of the construction industry. ABC believes that a new, market-driven visa program for foreign workers is needed to allow the construction industry to continue to grow and prosper.

ABC also believes that immigrants currently authorized to work in the United States have helped to fill gaps in our workforce and any immigration reform must deal with these individuals in a respectful and common-sense manner that recognizes the needs of our businesses and the construction workforce in the United States. Currently, it is estimated that over 100,000 individuals work in the construction industry through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation.

ABC has expressed support for an improved, mandated e-verify system with necessary protections for employers acting in good faith. 

ABC SUPPORTS

• Securing our borders and the stricter enforcement of immigration laws.
• Establishing a temporary guest worker program that would allow non-U.S. citizens to apply for the right to work legally in this country for multi-year renewable terms when an appropriately skilled and willing American worker is not available.
• Common-sense measures to deal with current undocumented immigrants and TPS recipients in the workforce.
• Safe harbor provisions against prosecuting and penalizing employers that act in good faith while using employment verification (E-Verify) to verify employees.
• Federal preemption of state and local E-Verify laws.
• A more streamlined and efficient pathway to legal status.

ABC OPPOSES

• Including “prevailing wage” requirements under the Davis-Bacon Act in any temporary guest worker program.
• Any temporary guest worker program that has an additional set of rules, restrictions or limitations for the construction industry.
• “Cross-liability” provisions that force employers to be accountable for the workers of other employers with which they have contracts, subcontracts or other forms of exchange.
• Discrimination or retaliation against builders and contractors participating in any border wall construction or other projects that address the needs of our national security. 

BACKGROUND

One key flaw of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act was its failure to provide a legal immigration program that could respond to labor market demand in times of both high and low unemployment. To meet U.S. construction demand, there must be a way for the industry to legally supplement its workforce when there are not enough willing or able American workers. An effective guest worker program is not only an economic issue, but also plays a key role in securing our border. When legal immigration programs can help us meet labor force demands, a truly secure border becomes a more realistic and achievable goal.

In September 2017, President Trump announced his decision to rescind DACA and provided Congress with a timeline to provide protections for those currently qualified for the program to remain in the U.S. Further, the President announced his decision to end TPS designations in 2019 for several countries, including Haiti, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. It is estimated that 51,000 TPS designees work in the construction industry. 

On February 5, 2018, ABC joined other major construction associations in a letter to Congressional leadership outlining its support for specific immigration reforms to address the needs of the construction industry.

In addition, employers need an efficient, practical and accurate E-Verify system that provides liability protection for compliant
businesses. Currently, E-Verify is limited to the employment eligibility of newly hired employees. As of Sept. 8, 2009, the federal government requires use for federal solicitations and contract awards; however, Congress has not mandated the use of E-Verify for all employers.

On Sept. 29, ABC joined the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition (EWIC) in support of H.R. 3711, the Legal Workforce Act, which would mandate an improved E-Verify program on all employers and for all new hires. Introduced by Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) on Sept. 8, 2017, H.R. 3711 would phase in the E-Verify requirement over a two-year period and provide safe harbors for employers that use E-Verify in good faith.

A recent bill in the California State Legislature would ban state government contracts for any company that works to help build any wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. ABC believes this action would set a dangerous precedent and eliminate necessary protections for fair and open competition when it comes to government contracts.