While it was glad to see Congress move on the issue, the Associated Builders and Contractors said the bipartisan immigration reform bill introduced Tuesday needs work before the group can support it.
“A guest worker program is essential to the success of any viable reform to our immigration system,” said Geoff Burr, the ABC’s vice president of federal affairs. “However, the current plan for construction is simply too small to address the workforce needs of our industry in times of both high and low unemployment. The plan fails to provide a sufficient number of visas to meet market demand.”
Under the proposal, undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before Dec. 31, 2011, and stayed could apply for a provisional visa. But it would take over a decade for such immigrants to earn citizenship and full federal benefits.
The bill would also increase the number of worker visas available in certain industries, such as technology. But it caps the number available in more union-heavy fields, including construction.
Those type of visa provisions are a concern, Burr said.
“As the nation’s construction sector recovers, it will inevitably be more difficult to fill critical labor openings, and make it impossible to secure the border,” he said. “For these reforms to be successful, we believe the cap on visas should be determined by labor market demand — the only measure that truly reflects the needs of the economy and our industry.”