When the unemployment rate is 3.6% – the lowest in a generation – while job vacancies are at a near record high 7.5 million, how do you sustain and strengthen growth? Simple. You retain workers of all skill levels who, in many cases, have been contributing to our economy for decades.
That’s what the U.S. House of Representatives sought to do last week by passing a bill that would provide 2.5 million Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients with the opportunity to obtain permanent legal residency so that they can continue building their lives and careers here in our country. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports this legislation unequivocally.
This bill marks the first time Congress has made any progress in addressing the plight of Dreamers since 2013. It’s an encouraging step, but we still have a long way to go. Until the proposal passes the Senate and the president signs it into law, many talented and industrious people will remain one adverse court decision away from being stripped of their ability to legally live and work in the U.S. The consequences of inaction could be devastating for many businesses across a host of industries, including construction, hospitality, food services, and health care.
While this legislative effort to address the status of Dreamers and TPS recipients considers two important aspects of the challenge, it is only a small part of a much broader immigration debate that we desperately need to have in this country. The American immigration system is broken and must be significantly revamped to meet the needs of our 21st century economy.
The White House recently released its own immigration plan centered on strengthening border security and recalibrating how our nation allocates permanent residency to prospective immigrants. We welcome the administration’s constructive engagement on these issues, and we look forward to working with leaders on both sides of the aisle to enact commonsense immigration reforms.
The push for broader reforms to our nation’s immigration system should include the following priorities – improving our nation’s border security efforts; expanding employment-based permanent resident and temporary worker programs so that employers can meet their workforce needs; updating our national employment verification system in a manner that works for the American business community; and responsibly addressing the broader undocumented population living in the U.S. by providing them with an opportunity to obtain legal status.
The immigration debate is long overdue – and a solution is desperately needed. We know that achieving these reforms won’t be easy in the current environment, but we will bring all resources to bear to get something done.