AUSTIN, Texas — After President Barack Obama announced on Thursday his intention to enact immigration reforms by executive order, his plans are being criticized by construction companies in Texas, who say that this approach is inadequate to address their hiring needs. A group of representatives from the industry convened in Houston with other business leaders this week and called for Congressional action on immigration.
Obama’s executive orders will allow immigrants illegally in this country to apply for protection from deportation and will ease work visa requirements for some highly skilled graduates, as Breitbart Texas reported. However, from the perspective of the construction industry, neither of those actions will alleviate their hiring shortages. As Breitbart Texas reported earlier this month, 90 percent of Texas construction companies report problems finding qualified workers, and half report losing workers to other industries, mostly the oil and gas industry. The skilled trade positions like plumbers, roofers, and carpenters that these companies need to fill will not be helped by the President’s plan, and offering increased wages, bonuses, overtime, and other benefits have been unable to ease the hiring crunch.
Over a hundred business owners participated in the event in Houston, as reported by the Construction Citizen blog. The event was part of larger effort by business and conservative leaders to share their perspectives on immigration reform and urge Congress to act, including planned events in twenty states, a summit in Washington, D.C., and a special section titled “Immigration: Conservative and Economic Solutions to Act Now” published in the Washington Times.
Norman Adams, with Texans for Sensible Immigration Policy, emphasized the need for Congressional action, noting, “An executive order will likely address less than 20% of undocumented immigrants. We need a modern immigration system that drives our economy rather than ignores it.”
Pat Kiley, CEO of Kiley Advisors and former Director of Associated General Contractors, stated his belief that immigration reform would help the construction industry find needed workers. “The reason we need comprehensive immigration reform is because we have so many needs for workers in every aspect of construction,” said Kiley. “It has been my privilege to watch this Houston market place for over thirty years, and I have never seen the confluence of what we have now. In the four major sectors of construction — residential, heavy industrial, highway and civil, and commercial — every one of those sectors and every segment within them has unprecedented volume. All of these segments are on fire, and right now contractors need additional labor.”
Darlene East, President of Holes Inc., discussed the benefits from having more people as legal workers. “Immigration reform is good for the American people because my employees pay taxes, social security, and my company pays workers’ compensation,” said East. “There are many people out there who have run to the underground economy and are not paying that. For fairness, everyone should be paying their fair share of employment taxes. We need to know who they are and get them on the books and have them pay the same taxes that my employees have to pay.”
Charles Foster, of the Foster law firm and the head of the Immigration Task Force for the Greater Houston Partnership, was hopeful that new leadership in Congress would be able to enact meaningful reforms. “We have new Republican leadership in the Senate,” he said. “Hopefully they will be able to pass a bill and send it over to the House. I have met with Speaker Boehner, and I know he is eager to pass some form of comprehensive immigration reform that will be acceptable to his Caucus.”
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