Construction pros call for immigration reform to fill surge of open jobs (2023)

Researchers and other experts expect millions of new construction jobsin coming months due to the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, CHIPS Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.

That's in addition to the 407,000 unfilled jobs in the construction industry now.

But where will those workers come from?

Immigrants have played a critical role in the U.S. construction industry for generations, from the creation of the Transcontinental Railroad in the West to the skyscrapers that define New York City in the East.But unlike in these past generations, workers tasked to improve America’s infrastructure this time around likely won't hail from outside the country, unless there's a dramatic change to current immigration policy, industry officials said.

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"Construction is one of many industries that historically relied much more than they've been able to in the last three years on foreign-born workers," said Ken Simonson, chief economist at the Associated General Contractors of America, during a recent webinar on finding more workers to help build America's infrastructure. "There have been a number of immigration programs that have been allowed to lapse."

The Biden administration recently temporarily extended the window for expired work permits by another 18 months, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The move had been in the works for months as officials looked for ways to combat the risk of workforce shortages, Politico reported.

USCIS is also seeking ways to address a backlog of roughly 1.5 million work permit applications. House and Senate Democrats have proposed bills to reduce the employment-based backlogs, but there does not seem to be enough Republican support to bring them across the finish line, said John Dorer, president of Immigration Office Solutions and CEO of, a New York-based platform that connects employers with foreign nationals seeking to work legally in the U.S.

“Things are stalled for the moment, this is typical in a pre-election environment,” said Dorer. “This may change after the midterm elections.”

In some areas, the push for foreign-born workers is seen as a political hot button. For example, in Florida, migrant workers are leading clean-up efforts to repair the damage from Hurricane Ian, according to Time magazine, despite Governor Ron DeSantis' efforts to deport illegal migrants from the South to Northern states.

Industry sources told Construction Dive that immigration reform could help alleviate endemic labor shortages in the industry, but that lawmakers thus far have lacked the political gumption to put such measures in place.

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“While the ideas on how to fix our nation’s immigration system are not lacking, there is a lack of will to do the work required to find a compromise,” said Kristen Swearingen, Associated Builders and Contractors vice president of legislative and political affairs. “Immigration reform will likely go largely unaddressed while the arguments over partisan proposals get louder and employers continue to struggle under the current system.”

Help wanted

For most contractors on the front lines, the need for immigration reform to help rebuild America is obvious.

"When you talk about immigration, it's my opinion that any type of reform would be better for the country, as well as the construction industry, compared to what we've had the last 25 years," said Stephen Sines, vice president of operations at the Danbury, Connecticut-based construction management firm Morganti Group, during the AGC webinar. "There has to be a starting point somewhere."

On the other side of the country, of all the challenges facing construction, one California construction pro pointed to immigration reform as the single most impactful issue for contractors.

"Our growth is going to be hampered without new labor sources," said Chris Bailey, senior vice president of integrated solutions at San Francisco Bay Area-based general contractor XL Construction. "They’ve got to come from somewhere."

And Frank Ciminelli, president and CEO of construction management firm Arc Building Partners, recently told Construction Dive the labor shortage remains the biggest challenge in the construction industry today.

Meanwhile, immigration reform is "far and away" the top national policy concern of business advocates at the state level, according to a report from law firm Littler.

Current efforts

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The Biden administration is currently considering whether changes to immigration policy should be one of its major pushes following the November midterm election, especially as migrant workers are generally a turnkey solution for labor shortage issues.

But specifics on what those changes might entail remain vague. Biden did propose the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 on his first day in office, but there have been no updates on that bill after nearly two years. That bill provided pathways to citzenship for undocumented workers, reinforcements to border control, increased assistance to Central American countries and improvements to immigration court processes, according to a White House release.

Brain Turmail, vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives at the Associated General Contractors of America, said immigration reform could help shorten the gap between labor demand and labor supply.

“The short answer would be ‘yes,’” said Turmail. “Allowing more people with construction skills to lawfully enter the country to meet workforce shortages would be a good short-term solution while we rebuild the domestic pipeline for preparing American workers.”

However, other Biden administration policies could render any immigration reform plan unworkable for the construction industry, Turmail said.

“The Inflation Reduction Act includes, for the first time ever, minimum apprenticeship quotas for projects receiving the higher level of tax credits available from the act,” said Turmail. “This will severely limit the pool of workers from which firms can draw on to hire for these projects, and all but eliminate lawful immigration as a short-term option.”

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Apprenticeship quotas could limit the number of immigrants working on these projects because those coming into the country legally would presumably already have the construction skills necessary to qualify for a temporary worker visa. In other words, they would have the experience and knowledge needed for those jobs, but not the apprenticeship pedigree that's stipulated in the act.

Possible solutions

Straightforward immigration reform could solve that problem, Turmail said.

“It could be something as relatively simple as putting in place a temporary work visa program specifically for construction,” said Turmail. “Or it could be broader, and include a path to legal status for undocumented workers, tighter border security and a construction-specific temporary visa program.”

Nevertheless, Congress is not expected to tackle this issue anytime soon.

Legislation such as the Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act, a bill that establishes a new nonimmigrant visa for temporary nonagricultural workers to fill jobs that have remained open for a certain amount of time and are located in areas where the unemployment rate sits below 7.9%, is not currently being debated, according to ABC.

“We have been pushing for any and all immigration reform possible,” said Turmail. “Unfortunately, it remains an issue most politicians like to talk about, but too few are willing to act on.”

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program earlier this month. That decision blocks new applications but allows current DACA enrollees to renew their status.ABC recently called to move forward on DACA and other immigration reform legislation.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s ruling on DACA comes after nine states filed a lawsuit last year claiming they are harmed financially due to healthcare, education and other costs when immigrants are allowed to remain in the country illegally.

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Some construction companies advocate for the Office of Foreign Labor Certification to start charging fees for Foreign Labor Certification applications. This would allow the OFLC to improve current slow processing times by having the ability to increase staffing, said Dorer. The department currently relies on funding from Congress.

Any immigration reform will likely have to wait until after the midterm elections, said Turmail.

“There is some talk of attaching some amount of immigration reform to the end-of-year funding bill,” he said. “Besides that, a lot of talk.”


How can we fix the immigration system? ›

By providing a fair and reasonable process, immigrants would have a reason to meet legal expectations.
  1. Allow Current Illegal Immigrants to Choose a Simple Status or Onerous Citizenship Path. ...
  2. Repeal the 3– and 10‐​Year Bars. ...
  3. Permanent Immigrant Registry. ...
  4. Legal Representation for Immigrants.
11 Nov 2020

What is Joe Biden's immigration policy? ›

On his first day in office, Biden unveiled sweeping immigration reform legislation, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which included an eight-year path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

What is a good question about immigration? ›

Set #1: Immigration Questions

Do you think that immigrants are treated well in in most countries? Do you think there is a relation between immigration and crime? What should be done with the illegal immigrants entering a country? Should the country of origin of illegal immigrants be held responsible?

What is a disadvantage of immigration? ›

However, immigration is also controversial. It is argued immigration can cause issues of overcrowding, congestion, and extra pressure on public services. There is also a debate about whether immigration of unskilled workers leads to downward pressure on wages and even unemployment of native workers.

What are the top 3 reasons for immigration? ›

People may choose to immigrate for a variety of reasons, such as employment opportunities, to escape a violent conflict, environmental factors, educational purposes, or to reunite with family.

What is the main problem of immigrants? ›

The language barrier is one of the main's challenges immigrants face. When you don't speak the language of the place in which you live, things like finding a job, buying food, and even meeting new people become incredibly difficult.

Who will benefit from Biden's plan? ›

Who Would Benefit From the Loan Forgiveness Plan? The relief is specifically targeted at those with annual income levels below $125,000, with 87% of the relief expected to go to those who make less than $75,000 annually, according to nonpartisan data center USAFacts.

What are the 4 types of immigration policies? ›

In U.S. immigration, there are four main categories of immigration status, including U.S. citizens, permanent or conditional residents, non-immigrants, and undocumented immigrants.

How many immigrants are allowed in the U.S. per year? ›

The body of law governing U.S. immigration policy is called the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The INA allows the United States to grant up to 675,000 permanent immigrant visas each year across various visa categories.

How do I answer immigration questions? ›

Answer all questions fully, succinctly, and truthfully, but do not volunteer information unless asked. If you're unsure of the answer or do not understand a question, you should always say so rather than guess.

What should you not say in an immigration interview? ›

DON'T joke around with the USCIS officer. In particular, avoid joking or sarcasm related to drug dealing, communicable diseases, bigamy, or smuggling people into the country. DON'T argue with your spouse or other family members in the middle of an interview.

Can you refuse to answer immigration questions? ›

You do not have to answer questions asked by immigration officers if you do not want to answer them. This includes questions about your citizenship status, birthplace or place of residence. If you are asked about your immigration status and you wish to remain silent, you may say: “I have the right to remain silent.” 2.

Does immigration benefit the economy? ›

Immigrants also make an important contribution to the U.S. economy. Most directly, immigration increases potential economic output by increasing the size of the labor force.

How does immigration affect employment? ›

The Center for Immigration Studies shows that immigration has impacts on wages and employment. The negative effect of immigration on wages is primarily confined to native workers in low-skilled occupations (Center for Immigration Studies). Immigration lowers wages for those at the bottom of the economic scale.

What are two advantages and disadvantages of immigration? ›

Migration has advantages and disadvantages. Some of advantages include: getting better places, interacting with people and learning their way of live. Disadvantages include: being killed, livestock stolen or conflicts.

What motivates people to immigrate to a certain country? ›

Quality of Life Factors

Conditions that influence an individual's quality of life vary from person to person, but may be the leading factors leading to immigration. These can include labor standards, poverty, and the overall state of a country to provide a quality life.

What is the #1 reason why people choose to migrate? ›

Pull factors include higher wages, better employment opportunities, a higher standard of living and educational opportunities. If economic conditions are not favourable and appear to be at risk of declining further, a greater number of individuals will probably migrate to countries with a better outlook.

What are 5 pull factors for immigration? ›

The important factors which motivate people to move can be classified into five categories. They are economic factors, demographic factors, socio-cultural factors, political factors and miscellaneous factors.

What are three main problems immigrants face in the workplace? ›

Common work challenges for immigrants

Forcing workers to labor long hours without paying overtime. Not paying minimum wage or failing to compensate for work that is done under the table. Not offering job training or protective equipment for dangerous jobs.

Why do immigrants struggle to get jobs? ›

For an array of reasons, including licensing obstacles, language issues and discrimination, many migrants are unable to put their skills to use in their new homes, and wind up in lower-paid, lower-skilled roles than the ones they previously held.

What are some of the most important problems that having many immigrants? ›

The Top 10 Problems Faced by Immigrants
  • Language barriers.
  • Employment opportunities.
  • Housing.
  • Access to local services.
  • Transportation issues.
  • Cultural differences.
  • Raising children.
  • Prejudice.
18 Jun 2021

Who qualifies for the Student Loan Forgiveness? ›

How do I know if I am eligible for debt relief? To be eligible, your annual income must have fallen below $125,000 (for individuals) or $250,000 (for married couples or heads of households). If you received a Pell Grant in college and meet the income threshold, you will be eligible for up to $20,000 in debt relief.

What is Biden's new Medicare plan? ›

But what is Biden's plan for healthcare? Biden has said that his plan will insure more than 97% of Americans by introducing a Medicare-like public option for individuals and families. He also says his plan will strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by increasing marketplace subsidies.

What are the 3 most important things you believe to be necessary about the current immigration policies? ›

However, we believe there are three important things everyone should keep in mind about the immigration system and process.
  • #1 The Immigration System is Very Complicated. Number one, the immigration system is extremely complicated. ...
  • #2 The Wait Times Are Very Long. ...
  • #3 Always Know Your Status and The Terms of That Status.

How can I immigrate to USA without a job offer? ›

There are also ways to get a green card without a US company sponsor. Two of these ways are: (1) the EB1A visa; and (2) the National Interest Waiver. Through both of these options, you do not need a job offer and you do not need a company to file an immigrant visa petition on your behalf.

Which country has the best immigration policy? ›

Canada has been ranked #1 in quality of life by the United Nations and is known to be the most immigration-friendly country. Canada welcomes immigrants from across the world. The right place for those individuals considering immigrating to an English-speaking country with comfort, safety, and a high standard of living.

What country takes the most immigrants? ›

United States

How long does it take to become a U.S. citizen? ›

In general, you may qualify for naturalization if you are at least 18 years old and have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years (or 3 years if you are married to a U.S. citizen) and meet all other eligibility requirements.

How can I get green card in USA without marriage? ›

For example, you could be eligible for a family-based green card if: You are an unmarried child of a U.S. citizen that's under 21 years of age; or. You are an orphan adopted, in the U.S or abroad, by a U.S. citizen; or. You are a parent of a U.S. citizen that is over 21 years of age.

Can you fail an immigration interview? ›

If you do not pass the green card interview, USCIS may investigate your case further. Additionally, USCIS may provide you with the opportunity to submit additional evidence. They may otherwise issue a Notice of Intent to Deny your Green Card application.

Can I wear jeans to immigration interview? ›

It's not necessary to dress formally for your U.S. citizenship interview and test. You may dress comfortably but look professional. "Business casual" is a good rule of thumb. Avoid wearing jeans, shorts and t-shirts.

Can I wear jeans for US visa interview? ›

Avoid jeans and leggings as these are often too informal for US visa attire.

What happens if you lie during immigration interview? ›

Lying to an immigration officer can have extreme consequences including permanent inadmissibility, deportability, and not being allowed to apply for U.S. citizenship. Any person seeking a benefit under U.S. immigration law—a visa, permanent residency (a "green card"), or citizenship—must submit a written application.

What three things should you not say in an interview? ›

Things you should never say in a job interview
  • Anything negative about a previous employer or job. ...
  • "I don't know." ...
  • Discussions about benefits, vacation and pay. ...
  • "It's on my resume." ...
  • Unprofessional language. ...
  • "I don't have any questions." ...
  • Asking what the company does. ...
  • Overly prepared answers or cliches.

Can immigration check your phone? ›

Unlike other law enforcement, border authorities don't need a warrant to search your device. They may conduct a basic search — in which they scroll through your device inspecting texts, photos or anything else they can easily access — even if they don't suspect you of wrongdoing.

Can immigration spy on you? ›

A new investigation published earlier this month found that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, uses a sophisticated and highly invasive dragnet surveillance system to spy on the majority of Americans, even in states with strict laws to protect the privacy of their residents.

What happens if you don't pass immigration interview? ›

If the applicant does not pass the citizenship test, they will be allowed to retake the test, but the questions will be different for the second test. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will reschedule the test, which typically takes place two to three months after the date of the initial appointment.

Do I have to answer questions at an immigration checkpoint? ›

As always, you have the right to remain silent. Refusing to answer CBP's questions may result in the agent persisting with questioning. If this occurs, you should ask if you are being detained.

What is the most common job for immigrants? ›

Top Jobs In the US for Immigrants
  • Construction. The construction business is attractive to new immigrants as a potential source of employment. ...
  • Agriculture. Immigrant farmworkers are estimated to account for 73 percent of agriculture jobs in the United States today. ...
  • Architecture and Engineering. ...
  • Hospitality. ...
  • Healthcare.
11 Mar 2022

Does immigration have a positive effect on society? ›


FACT: Immigrants are highly entrepreneurial, launching new companies at twice the rate of native-born Americans and creating large numbers of jobs. All of this increases employment opportunities for native-born American workers, boosts wages and strengthens the middle class.

What role do immigrants play in the construction industry? ›

More than one-third of construction laborers (686,000 workers), at least 30 percent of carpenters (382,000 workers), and 45 percent of painters and paperhangers (264,000 workers) are immigrants.

What are 3 reasons for immigration? ›

People may choose to immigrate for a variety of reasons, such as employment opportunities, to escape a violent conflict, environmental factors, educational purposes, or to reunite with family.

Why do companies hire immigrants? ›

Hiring international employees brings people into your business who have different perspectives since they came from entirely different places. The blending of ideas and perspectives from various cultures is the best possible recipe for creativity and innovation that can take your company to new heights.

What are some examples of immigration benefits? ›

IMMIGRATION BENEFIT. Any visa, status, or other right or ability that a foreign national requests from the U.S. government. Green cards, temporary visas, and employment authorizations are all immigration benefits.

What is positive impact of migration? ›

The expansion of the labour force, the increase of cultural variety, the filling of skill gaps in the labour market, and the boost to the local economy are the major positive effects of migration on host countries.

How can the government help immigration? ›

State laws designed to help immigrants integrate into society include helping them pass naturalization tests and learn English, removing barriers to licensing for certain occupations, and creating integration positions or task forces.

Who can help with immigration problems? ›

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)
Getting help to avoid or solve certain problems
  • talk to immigration authorities, on the phone or in person.
  • fill out a form and give it to immigration authorities.
  • give documents to immigration authorities for use as evidence in an application or at a hearing.
  • give evidence at a hearing.
16 Dec 2021

What is the best way to help immigrants? ›

How to Help
  1. Donate.
  2. Stay informed!
  3. Fundraise for immigrant justice!
  4. Create a personal fundraising campaign on behalf of NIJC and provide life-changing legal services to immigrants and asylum seekers. ...
  5. Take action to keep families together!

Why do we need to help immigrants? ›

Undocumented immigrants make significant economic contributions and are integral members of communities across the United States; immigration relief is necessary to continue growing the economy and strengthening communities nationwide, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is an example of immigration benefit? ›

IMMIGRATION BENEFIT. Any visa, status, or other right or ability that a foreign national requests from the U.S. government. Green cards, temporary visas, and employment authorizations are all immigration benefits.

What career helps immigrants? ›

Entry level jobs in Refugee and Immigrant Rights
  • Associate Resettlement Officer. ...
  • Junior Professional Officer. ...
  • Case Manager. ...
  • Program Officer. ...
  • Research Associate. ...
  • Media/Communications Specialists. ...
  • Field Specialists. ...
  • Interpreter.

What suggestions can you give to solve the issue of immigration stresses? ›

Coping with Immigration Stress
  • Take care of yourself physically. Exercise is proven to relieve stress and has many other health benefits.
  • Take care of yourself mentally. There is no shame in seeking out counseling services, even if you're not sure about it: give it a try!
  • Build community.


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