Construction, other industries speak out against guest worker deal

Updated Apr 15, 2013

UndocumentedConstructionJust when it looked like the final hurdle to immigration reform had been cleared, dozens of business groups, including half a dozen representing construction professionals, have called into question a new guest worker program agreed to by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO.

As we recently reported, the new guest worker program, called the “W-Visa,” would make a maximum of 200,000 visas available each year. The construction industry would be limited to no more than 15,000 of those visas per year.

Associated General Contractors of America, Associated Builders and Contractors, the National Association of Home Builders and three other construction groups released a joint statement shortly after news about the guest worker program agreement came out.

“We are deeply concerned with the size and the scope of the temporary guest worker program in the proposal now being drafted by the Gang of 8 Senators. Capping the amount of visas for the construction industry at only 15,000 in an industry that currently employs nearly 6 million workers is simply unrealistic and destined to fail,” the statement read.

“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.

And now, Politico is reporting that Associated Builders and Contractors and several other business groups have sent a letter to Congress asking lawmakers to increase the cap on visas each year, treat all industries equally and reduce fees and wage premiums.

“As a matter of national security and common sense, we must craft a visa program that responds to the changing labor needs of the dynamic U.S. economy. Employers who are acting in good faith need to know that the government is working with them to ensure that the foreign workforce in the United States is legal,” the letter to lawmakers read.

Lawmakers were taken off guard by the letter, as they thought because the agreement was made between the Chamber and the nation’s main federation of labor unions.