The organized private sector plays a very important role in the debate over immigration reform because they hire foreigners citing a lack of qualified workers in the U.S.-born labor force. However, their enthusiasm has been absent when it comes to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
That is why the document sent to the Supreme Court by a group of 60 companies and leaders of the technology sector in support of the DACA and DAPA actions signed by the President is welcomed. Silicon Valley is interested in seeing more HB-1 technology visas granted. The request is controversial, as the industry is frequently accused of preferring to hire inexperienced foreigners over experienced native engineers in order to pay them less.
A somewhat similar case ‒ without the displacement of American professionals ‒ can be seen in other sectors of the economy, for instance, in construction, an industry in which two-thirds of all companies say that they cannot find qualified labor. Also, in the restaurant and hospitality industries, where the claim is that they are unable to find people willing to perform “intensive work during high season,” or in agriculture, where it is said that U.S.-born workers are not interested in doing the hard and demanding work required.
The need for workers in these sectors led a group of companies to form a coalition that helped pass immigration reform in the Senate, but the bill was later killed in the House of Representatives. We believe that, however honest, efforts such as the Chamber of Commerce’s are insufficient and seem to avoid ruffling feathers among legislators.
Immigration is very important to the economy. A report published by the Ford Foundation in 2013 estimated that immigration reform would create 123,000 new jobs and raise the country’s gross domestic product by $10 million on its first year.
It is clear that supporting immigration reform is not among the priorities of large corporations. Otherwise, it would be impossible to explain why the Chamber of Commerce has paid millions to legislators who radically oppose a reform of any kind, many of whom voted against the Senate-approved bill in 2013.
A little more coherence and support for the executive actions ‒ in the absence of comprehensive reform ‒ is not too much to ask of the private sector.