The home-building industry plays an important role in sustaining the American economy and meeting our nation’s housing needs. Thankfully, in Miami, Florida, we have experienced significant improvements in the housing market in the last few years. This momentum has reflected the national trend of economic growth in the home-building sector. However, this recent success is met with new challenges.
Immigrant labor is essential to fill necessary positions in Miami’s home-building industry, yet current immigration policies have caused steep obstacles for builders. Immigration reform is key for Miami’s home-building industry to continue to thrive and address the housing needs in our country. However, many a Miami immigration attorney would agree that Congress has dragged its feet on passing immigration reform that repairs our outdated immigration system but does not impose significant burdens on small businesses in the industry.
The turnaround in the housing market in recent years has presented labor challenges for construction within the home-building industry. According to the BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, the number of open and unfilled jobs in the construction sector increased by 51 percent, from 95,000 to 143,000, between December 2012 and December 2013. This labor shortage has resulted in delays in project completion and lost or cancelled sales.
The industry has put forth efforts to recruit and train American-born workers, but the ever-increasing demand for workers cannot be met without additional immigrant laborers. By employing immigrant laborers, the homebuilding industry is not only filling necessary positions in the construction sector, but also creating additional jobs in related industries. According to the Partnership for a New American Economy, for every 100 temporary worker visas issued, 464 jobs are created or preserved for American-born workers.
As a Miami immigration lawyer, I would put forth that Congress must implement a new market-based visa system that allows more immigrants to legally enter the construction workforce each year. It is crucial that the home building industry have the requisite number of workers to avoid delays or canceled work. This new program will complement the ongoing training efforts of American workers, create additional jobs for native-born workers, and address the labor shortage necessary to meet the nation’s housing needs.
The home building industry drives economic growth and job creation in our country, and in our state. At a time when our housing market is gaining momentum, we cannot allow an outdated immigration system to impede the industry. We need immigration reform that provides a fair and workable employer verification system and implements visa programs that reflect the needs of the construction industry.
Congress has the opportunity to act. It is time for prudent immigration policies that address the economic needs of all Americans, and it is our responsibility to call on our Congressional leaders to pass meaningful immigration reform this year.