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Immigration Proposal’s Cap On Construction Workers Would Undermine Economic Recovery, Official

New "severe and arbitrary" restrictions could lead to an industry-wide shortage of workers.

Fri April 19, 2013 - National Edition

WASHINGTON D.C. — To some conservatives, it’s amnesty.

To some immigration advocates, it’s unnecessarily punitive.

The Senate’s new bipartisan immigration bill drew criticism from the right and from the left earlier in the week – convincing members of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" that wrote it that they’re on the right track.

"This has something for everybody to hate," said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

The legislation would dramatically remake the U.S. immigration system, ushering in new visa programs for low- and high-skilled workers, requiring a tough new focus on border security, instituting a new requirement for all employers to check the legal status of their workers, and installing a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.

The reforms could also have a severe impact on the construction industry. The chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, Stephen E. Sandherr, issued the following statement in response to proposed legislation:

“The Senators’ proposal for immigration reform provides a long-needed opportunity to fix a significantly broken system. That is why we will fully review the details of a very complex bill.

“We are deeply troubled that the proposal appears to arbitrarily single out the construction industry for a unique cap while providing a reasonable mechanism for the immigration system to adapt to evolving market conditions for every other segment of the domestic economy.

“Setting severe and arbitrary restrictions on construction workers isn’t just bad policy, it is bad economics. Few industries experience such dramatic, demand-based fluctuations in the size of their workforce as does construction. Imposing severe limitations - one-quarter of 1 percent of current construction employment levels - on the potential pool of available workers at a time when economists expect construction firms will add up to 350,000 new workers this year alone will undermine the sector’s nascent recovery. If this proposal were to be enacted, construction employers could easily go from not having enough work to not having enough workers.

“While this bill is a good beginning, we look forward to working with legislators over the coming weeks to improve this initial proposal so we can have comprehensive immigration reform that sustains, instead of restrains, economic growth.”

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