The Donald is becoming a serious presidential candidate and also is seriously drawing attention to the situation surrounding the construction industry workforce. The situation is, of course, that there are not enough workers to go around.
As a consequence of his remarks on immigration, the spotlight did shine again, however fleetingly, on construction trade employment. This was especially true after it was learned that some Trump laborers on a Washington, DC, hotel worksite are undocumented.
Of the estimated 11-20 million illegals in the country, a disproportionate number are wearing hardhats in construction zones. Because contractors are having trouble enticing a new homegrown generation of blue-collar help, they welcome skilled and unskilled labors of any accent. It might even be advantageous to a contractor’s bottom line to employ undocumented workers because they are in no position to complain about wages and benefits.
But the situation also puts contractors at risk. The current administration may be turning a blind eye on the illegal workforce, but the Immigration Customs and Enforcement agency still is authorized to crack down, whenever it wants to do so, on employers of illegal workers. This puts contractors all over the country in constant legal jeopardy.
The dilemma is solvable, ultimately, only by Congress. Presidential directives aren’t going to do it. The Donald isn’t going to fire the problem. Tens of millions of workers from south of the border aren’t going to slink home. The hope is that the next president and Congress—spurred perhaps by campaign remarks from Trump and others—will finally sort out the issues and establish a workable immigration policy.
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