National security should always be a top concern of our elected leaders, but it should never be an excuse to marginalize those who are different or to abandon our country’s heritage as a nation of immigrants. Yet, that is exactly what Donald Trump has done over the past year, fomenting hostility toward immigrants generally—and Mexican and Muslim immigrants specifically—by blaming them for a range of perceived problems.
On Monday, he continued his pattern of stoking peoples’ fears about immigration, and, among other things, called for “extreme vetting.” It is his policies and rhetoric that are in need of some “extreme vetting.”
We have an obligation to fix and reform our nation’s immigration system, but that does not mean following the dangerous policies Donald Trump is proposing. The answer is not building a wall. The answer is not imposing a religious test.
Manufacturers know that immigration strengthens our country and our workplaces. As the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) outlined in our “Competing to Win” policy agenda, “Comprehensive immigration reform holds the power to transform not only manufacturing but also our nation and economy to new heights. Unfortunately, political inertia has held us back from achieving progress and needed reforms.”
The current system hurts our competitiveness as foreign-born talent, often educated in the United States, moves abroad to work, manufacture, innovate and compete against us.
The current system is denying people the opportunity to live up to their potential—and move our country forward in the process.
America’s economic frustrations are real, and concerns about national security are valid. However, shameless immigrant bashing and promises to wall off our country—literally and metaphorically—from the rest of the world will make us weaker.
As NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons has said, “We attract the best and the brightest, the most industrious, to our shores.” As a country, let us figure out how to empower immigrants—those who are here already and those who still yearn for freedom—to contribute to America’s success.
With only four working days since the H-1B application process opened on April 1, the number of applications for H-1B visas has already far exceeded the annual visas limitations. On Tuesday April 7, USCIS stated they are no longer accepting applications and “Due to the high number of petitions, USCIS is not yet able to announce the date on which it will conduct the random selection process.” Which means they received so many that they are still counting them. The limit is – again – exceeded before one week had passed. Read More
Improving border security is an essential part of immigration reform for the United States. Our current system incentivizes illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. while providing few opportunities for them to engage in the legal immigration system. As a matter of national security we need to know who is coming into our country and if they pose a threat. Creating a truly functional immigration program for lesser-skilled workers is the most effective way to achieve this important goal. We need to take away the incentive to come to and stay in the United States illegally and the best way to do that is to create a legal framework to manage it. By creating a legal system, we can be assured we know exactly who is here as well as allow temporary workers to return to their native country instead of being forced to live in the shadows for years on end. Under the current system, or lack of one, workers are incentivized to obtain false documents and unable to return home for fear that they will not be able to get back to in the US. Read More
A recent report released by the Manufacturing Institute shows that 82 percent of manufacturers have a moderate to severe shortage of highly skilled applicants and face reduced earnings of up to 11 percent annually due to skills shortages. These facts bear out the plain and simple fact that there are not enough highly-skilled workers to meet the increasingly technological demands of manufacturing. This is true despite manufacturing employees being compensated almost 9 percent more than other industries and manufacturers spending an average of $1500 per employee per year on training.
To help fill this gap, manufacturers may attempt to recruit foreign-born workers through the use of H-1B visas, a limited but valuable method of ensuring that the next generation of innovation comes from the US. This issue affects manufacturers from California to New York in all manufacturing sectors from what people traditionally think of as hi-tech industries to heavy equipment and metal fabricating – and many of these potential employees are recruited because they are graduating from U.S. universities with the skills and training manufacturers are looking for. Read More
Earlier today, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) hosted a dual town hall discussion on why the time for comprehensive immigration reform is now. Cosponsored by Cargill, Microsoft and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the event highlighted just how important the issue is to businesses and local communities across the country. That significance resounded from Cargill’s headquarters in Hopkins, Minnesota to the Washington, DC platform where House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) addressed the crowd.
Right now, the United States is educating foreign-born talent and then returning them to our competitors around the world. Our birthrates are not where they need to be to lock in our competitive advantage. Immigration reform will create jobs and drive economic growth, economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin said in Washington. As Ryan noted, maintaining the status quo on immigration will get us nowhere fast. “When we’ve got baby boomers retiring, when we’ve got 10,000 people retiring every day as they will be for ten years coming, we’re going to need people,” he said. “Immigration helps us get the labor force that we need so that we can have the kind of growth we want.” Manufacturers in particular stand to benefit from having access to the qualified workers they need to keep manufacturing in the United States and thrive in a global marketplace.
For Ryan and other lawmakers, immigration reform is not simply an economically-motivated decision. It is the right thing to do. NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons has been making the case for comprehensive immigration reform based on those same principles. It is something that town hall panelist and Brooklyn Park, Minnesota Mayor Jeffrey Lunde understands completely. Brooklyn Park is the most diverse city in the state and an indicator of future U.S. demographics. “It’s not stats to us – it’s people,” Lunde said from Cargill’s headquarters.
The NAM couldn’t agree more, especially when opponents question the ethics of immigration reform. Immigration reform is the ethical thing to do. Cargill Chairman and CEO Gregory Page put it best when took the stage. “What we see in America are 11 million people, the great majority of whom came here to work and to work hard, often in jobs that are difficult for employers like ourselves and others to fill. We see this as a moral question in the other direction,” he said. “How are we going to treat people who have contributed so much for so many years?”
The Senate Judiciary Committee completed work on S. 744 last night, which sets up consideration by the full Senate in June. The vote was 13-5 and demonstrated bi-partisan support for the framework. Prior to passage, the committee adopted an amendment negotiated by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), which would address critical aspects of the H-1B visa provisions of the bill.
The NAM joined the U.S. Chamber in sending a letter of support for Senator Hatch’s amendment to all members of the Judiciary Committee. In June, the Senate will take up a comprehensive immigration package that contains the following: increased access to high-skilled talent; increased legal access to lower-skilled workers; a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented; and an enhanced verification program with protections for employers acting in good faith. The NAM is anticipating vigorous debate on this legislation over the summer in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
April 1 is the start date for the Citizenship and Immigration Services to accept H1B petitions for the new fiscal year. Today is also April Fool’s Day and if a company needs a high-tech worker, but doesn’t apply within the next couple of days, the chances of them getting a visa are the joke.
Petitions are expected to exceed the annual the cap of 65,000 either today or in the next few days. That means that anyone looking to hire a highly-skilled foreign-born candidate who has not applied on April 1 will likely not be able to hire that talented individual this year – and this is not a new phenomenon.
Each year, even during the darkest days of the economic turndown, the cap was reached before the end of the year. As a result, the U.S. is losing highly-educated and highly-skilled talent to other countries. Thousands of students come to the U.S. from around the world to enroll in our colleges and universities, but when they’re done with their programs we send them back home to compete against us due to a lack of visas. This system needs to be fixed and we are on the verge of making that happen.
In February, Senators Hatch, Klobuchar, Rubio and Coons introduced the Innovation Immigration Act or I-Squared Act. The bill focuses on this problem as well as the long-time back-log of green cards. The NAM sent a letter in support of this legislation and is now submitting a letter along with nearly 60 companies and organizations that see the need for reform and see the I-squared bill as the best way forward.
Today is the annual milestone that often marks the broken system and we are putting forward our support for legislation that will change it. We need to stop playing the fool and start focusing on policies that will strengthen our economy – enacting I-Squared through a common-sense immigration reform package will do just that.
Joe Trauger is vice president of human resources policy, National Association of Manufacturers.
In 2008, Arizona was the first state to go beyond existing Federal laws and impose additional hiring responsibilities and penalties on employers. Some states have since followed, resulting in a state-by-state patchwork of varied enforcement and hiring mechanisms, making the process increasingly difficult, burdensome and costly for employers doing business in multiple states.
Today, the Supreme Court found that the Arizona law falls within the authority Congress has given the states and they have the right to mandate that employers use E-Verify, the Federal verification program and impose certain penalties.
Employers need a reliable, accurate and efficient employment eligibility verification system that also provides fair enforcement of the laws. This includes a consistent system that provides a coherent hiring process across all states. Manufacturers are concerned that this ruling opens the door to additional state action that will make the hiring process more confusing.
Federal preemption of state laws and a safe harbor for employers is necessary to ease the regulatory burden that will continue to be imposed one state at a time.
Joe Trauger is vice president for human resources policy, National Association of Manufacturers.
Crossposted from Compete America, “Making a Commitment to U.S. Education and Workforce Development“:
As a member of Compete America, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) supports the retention of highly educated, foreign-born talent for the advancement of America’s 21st century workforce. Equally important, the Manufacturers, along with all Compete America members, are dedicated to encouraging the development of “home grown” talent so the United States can compete in the 21st century economy.
Our country is experiencing a deficit of American students and workers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. According to the National Science Board’s Science and Engineering Indicators 2010, about five percent of all bachelor’s degrees are in engineering in the United States, compared to 20 percent in Asia and about one-third in China. If we want to compete in the new global economy, a crucial step will be generating more domestic talent for these in-demand careers. We and the members of Compete America are doing something about that. Read More