Immigration: AGC supports earned path to legalization; says executive order makes bipartisan reform difficult

AGC of America released the following statement regarding the President’s Nov. 20 immigration executive order:

For over a decade when the Bush Administration began its push for immigration reform through today AGC has supported comprehensive immigration reform. That support included an endorsement of the bipartisan immigration package that passed the Senate in 2013.  A central element in both the Bush proposal and the 2013 Senate bill was an earned path to legalization for immigrants who have come here illegally but have secured employment in many industries including construction. In both proposals immigrants had to be gainfully employed have a clean criminal record pay a civil penalty for breaking the law and pay any back taxes owed. If the immigrant met those conditions they would be entitled to a probationary temporary and conditional legal status short of a “green card” or full citizenship.
 
AGC supported this earned-legalization provision for two primary reasons:

1 - to eliminate the threat of deportation to productive members of the construction industry workforce who are paying taxes and raising families and at risk as a result of providing false identification documents to employers when they applied for work and

2 - to shield well-intentioned employers who were obligated to accept their documents during the hiring process. As such it may be appropriate to provide limited legal status to these workers who are not a priority for deportation to entice them to come out of the shadows pay taxes and comply with the laws of the US. Additionally it is unfortunate that many undocumented workers who are living in the shadows of legitimacy have been exploited by unscrupulous employers who do not pay worker’s compensation do not withhold taxes do not pay a competitive wage and do not offer benefits. Those firms have gained an unfair advantage over legitimate employers who comply with state and federal employment laws.  Providing limited legal status to those unfortunate workers will likely aid in leveling the playing field by denying their employers a workforce that cannot improve their situation for fear of deportation.
 
What is unfortunate about the president’s unilateral action is that he offers a temporary solution while claiming to seek permanence. His action makes bipartisan reform more difficult to achieve and likely endangers other legislative initiatives that require bipartisan solutions and cooperation between the Congress and the administration. AGC urges the president to allow the legislative process to play out and avoid making unilateral policy changes that fail to offer employers and their workers a long-term permanent solution to our nation’s broken immigration system.

In the meantime we are eager to see additional details about the final executive actions the president signs and to comment on them as appropriate.