Vice President, Immigration Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
January 20, 2023
Over the past few decades, one of the most vexing challenges that Congress has been unable to address is reforming our nation’s broken immigration system and securing our southern border. Our elected representatives in D.C. simply cannot let another Congress go by without addressing these issues.
Anyone who has followed the news knows that our southern border is in a state of chaos. The border apprehension data illustrates the current anarchy. U.S. Border Patrol reported 206,239 apprehensions on the southern border during the month of November. To put this into perspective, November 2021’s apprehension numbers (167,015, to be exact) were a record high for the month of November at the time. November 2022’s apprehension numbers were roughly 40,000 higher than the prior record. These historically high levels of unauthorized entries into the U.S. will not go away on their own; Congress and the Biden Administration must work together to solve this problem.
At the same time, American employers of all sizes and across a host of industries are facing chronic workforce shortages that significantly limit the ability of their businesses to grow. The vast shortcomings of our legal immigration system are a key contributing factor as to why companies are struggling to hire and retain the talent they need to succeed in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. As demand for workers has increased in recent years, the outdated and arbitrarily low visa quotas, onerous compliance burdens, decades-long backlogs, and obsolete eligibility requirements that pervade employment-based visa programs leave many companies out in the cold when it comes to adequately meeting their workforce needs.
The U.S. Chamber believes the 118th Congress can rise to meet this moment and enact the types of immigration policies that will spur economic growth, boost job creation, and reestablish order on our southern border. Congress’ goal should be to implement long-term fixes to our broken immigration system that address both the outdated, artificial constraints on legal immigration and the ongoing crisis on our southern border. Only by confronting both these issues can durable, lasting changes to our immigration system be effectuated.
To address the ongoing crisis on our southern border, Congress has to substantially increase the human, physical, and technological resources along the border and at our ports of entry. In addition, sensible reforms to our asylum laws must be instituted, along with a much-needed modernization of federal employment verification requirements that provide a more effective and efficient means for businesses to prevent unlawful employment. These measures alone, however, will not prevent future border crises; they must be combined with policies that significantly expand the number of legal immigration options for future immigrants and temporary workers to the U.S.
Effectively expanding legal immigration to the U.S. requires many different reforms. Such reforms would include substantially increasing the annual allotment of employment based green cards, as well as raising the yearly caps on the issuance of certain temporary worker visas like the H-1B specialty occupation visa and the H-2B temporary non-agricultural visa. In addition, the H-2A agricultural visa program should be expanded to allow non-seasonal agricultural production like dairies and livestock ranches to have access to sorely needed workers. It also means creating new visa options that will help highly educated international students in the U.S. stay after they graduate from American colleges, as well as provide industries like construction, trucking, and retail, among others, that oftentimes cannot avail themselves of foreign national workers because their unfilled jobs are not seasonal in nature.
In addition, it is long past time for Congress to provide legal certainty to DACA recipients and long-term beneficiaries of the Temporary Protected Status program. Many of these individuals have lived in the U.S. for decades. They are a part of American society, and they make critical contributions to our nation’s workforce. Legislation that provides relief for these two populations is long overdue, and the Chamber will continue to advocate for relief for recipients of DACA and TPS.
The “Calling on Congress” series is highlighting priorities that must be addressed in the 118th Congress.
About the authors
Jon currently serves as the Vice President of Immigration Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He joined the Chamber in June 2014. He works with Chamber member companies to form Chamber policy positions on various issues and he advocates for sensible immigration policies before Congress and the executive branch agencies.