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ABC May 14 responded to the Senate Judiciary Committee mark-up of a section of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) by supporting an amendment that would allow all industries, including construction, equal access to temporary worker visas.

“ABC has supported comprehensive immigration reform for many years and we are encouraged that the Senate bill includes well-crafted approaches to border security, legalization and an innovative solution to future workforce needs,” ABC wrote in a letter sent to the chairman and ranking member of the committee.

However, ABC also noted that the current plan for a guest worker program in S. 744 is simply too small to address the workforce needs of the construction industry. Specifically, ABC expressed concern over the limitations the bill puts on construction industry access to W visas.

W visas are temporary, 3-year renewable visas for low-skilled workers. Currently, S. 744 places a cap of 15,000 on those visas for the construction industry.

ABC cited data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showing that the industry will need about 1.8 million more workers by 2020
– or roughly 225,00 more workers per year through the end of the decade. Because of that, ABC noted that putting inflexible restrictions on the construction industry’s use of the W visa program will invite labor shortages and stifle economic growth.

ABC offered its support for Amendment 9, introduced by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), that would change Title IV of the bill to improve the W visa program by allowing the construction industry equal access to the visas.

“We believe that this amendment speaks to our concerns and is vital to the success of this program,” ABC wrote in the letter.