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The U.S. Senate voted 68-32 to pass the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) on June 27 with language that places a limit on the number of guest worker visas available to the construction industry.

“Unfortunately, ABC cannot support S. 744 because this legislation fails to provide for a workable legal immigration system for our industry,” ABC wrote. 

The Senate immigration bill caps the construction industry at 15,000 temporary worker visas per year. Before the vote, ABC sent a letter to all Senators highlighting the impact this provision would have on the construction industry.

“While this construction cap did placate a powerful special interest, it makes the program unworkable for an industry which currently employs over 6 million people nationally and accounts for 5 percent of our nation’s economy,” ABC wrote. 

In the letter, ABC pointed out that a fatal flaw in 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. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the construction industry is expected to need about 1.8 million new workers by 2020. The construction industry has an aging workforce and needs some way to continue to meet U.S. construction demand, ABC wrote, meaning there must be a way for the industry to legally supplement its workforce when there are not a sufficient number of willing or able American workers. 

ABC also pointed out that an effective low-skilled guest worker program is not only an economic issue, but also plays an important role in securing our border.

“When legal immigration vehicles are able to meet labor force demands, a truly secure border becomes a more realistic and achievable goal,” ABC wrote. “ABC will continue to strongly advocate for comprehensive immigration reform solutions as this debate continues.”