Essential Workers: Needed Workforce for the Future
Our current immigration system is clearly broken. The biggest indicator that our system is not working is that there are 12 million undocumented immigrants currently living, and most working, in the United States—about the same population size as Ohio. The economy is clearly absorbing these workers, as the U.S. employment rate is under five percent. There is simply no legal immigration mechanism for them to enter the country, yet we are creating jobs that need to be filled. Furthermore, employers cannot always determine who is authorized to work and who is not because of the prevalence of fake documents. Yet, there is still no clear practical plan in place to address the need to fix our dysfunctional immigration laws.
Common demographic and job growth projections, combined with numerous "on the ground" reports from many employers across the economic spectrum faced with the day-to-day realities of the workplace, indicate that this country is facing, and will continue to face, a growing shortage of workers in many areas. According to estimates released in February 2005, the fertility rate in the United States is projected to fall below "replacement" level by 2015 to 2020, declining to 1.91 children per woman (lower than the 2.1 children per woman rate needed to replace the population). By 2010, 77 million baby boomers will begin to retire and, by 2030, one in every five Americans is projected to be a senior citizen.
The combination of a need for workers and an inadequate immigration system has caused an unacceptable status quo.
By not creating adequate legal avenues for hiring foreign workers and not addressing the status of workers already here, Congress and this administration are not fully safeguarding the economy for the future. While there are fluctuations in employment rates, the long-term threat of a shrinking labor pool lingers in the United States. The Chamber advocates the expansion of temporary visa programs for essential workers, creating paths to permanent residence for these workers when appropriate, and providing a way to earn legal status for undocumented workers who have been supporting our economy for the last decade or more.
U.S. Chamber Position
The essential parts of a comprehensive solution include: increased border security; an employment verification system that is fast, accurate, and reliable; a new temporary worker program; and a path to earned legalization for the 12 million undocumented immigrants. The Chamber will continue to work with our coalition, the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, to urge Congress and the President to enact comprehensive immigration reform.
Chamber President Tom Donohue Testifies before Congress for Comprehensive Immigration Reform — May 26, 2005
Fact Sheet: Fair and Secure Immigration Reform (President's Proposal) — Jan 7, 2004
Chamber Urges Congress to Pursue President's Immigration Proposal — Jan 27, 2004
Essential Workers Fact Sheet (PDF)
Press Release: Chamber Applauds Bipartisan Agricultural Workers Bill — Sep 23, 2003
Chamber President Tom Donohue Testifies before Congress for Immigration Reform — Sep 9, 2001