National Immigration Forum

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Throughout American history, immigrants have been central in building this country’s cities, towns, farms, and businesses. Immigrants continue to be a major component in America’s workforce. Approximately 13% of our overall workforce are immigrant workers, with many industries much more heavily dependent on immigrant labor. More than 25% of new entrants into the workforce are foreign-born. Immigrant workers can be found in professions, such as nurses, teachers or computer scientists. They also work in agriculture, the garment industry, food processing, construction, and the hotel and restaurant industries.

Employers and the labor unions know that the future of the nation’s economy will depend on immigration to replenish an aging workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy will develop worker shortages in the future.  In the 1990s and early 2000s, there were many more jobs available for low-skilled immigrants than there were legal opportunities to hire immigrants. Our antiquated immigration policies have made it necessary for millions of lesser-skilled immigrants to live an underground existence. This disconnect at the national level between our immigration policy and our economic needs has created problems for communities.

Undocumented workers, even when they have rights, are more fearful of asserting those rights for fear of deportation, and are more likely to work for employers who do not provide benefits, good working conditions, or good pay. Undocumented workers in some areas may not have access to drivers licenses or the banking system. The impact on communities—and communities of workers—is a major factor in the recent interest by labor unions in the plight of undocumented workers. Until our national policies are reformed to conform immigration policy with economic reality, immigrants and local communities will bear the brunt of the side effects.

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