The Honorable (full name)
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Sen. (last name):
As the Senate begins to address immigration reform, I urge you to support a comprehensive
approach to immigration reform. I am a member of the National Roofing Contractors
Association and urge you to support the approach outlined in the bipartisan legislation
passed by Chairman Arlen Specter and the Senate Judiciary Committee March 27.
Our nation's immigration system is broken. If we honestly hope to succeed in fixing
it, we must acknowledge the fact that a piecemeal approach such as the "enforcement-alone"
bill (HR 4437) passed by the U.S. House of Representatives December 2005 is doomed
to fail. Any serious remedy must do three things: 1) strengthen our national security;
2) reinforce the rule of law; and 3) address the current and future economic and
labor needs of our economy.
By focusing on employer sanctions, HR 4437 and S 2454 legislation introduced
by Majority Leader Bill Frist that closely mirrors the House bill fix much
of the blame for our broken immigration system on employers. Even worse, these bills
ignore the underlying problem our economy has jobs that are going unfilled
by native-born U.S. citizens. Simply allocating additional resources to enforcement
will not cure our nation's immigration crisis as long as the economic realities
of my industry and our nation's economy as a whole are ignored. This strategy failed
in the past and will fail again, unless it is coupled with a program that takes
into account the demographic trends facing the United States.
With an aging domestic workforce and concurrent rise in demand for construction
services, the roofing industry faces an enduring shortage of workers. The U.S. Bureau
of Labor Statistics projects the roofing industry alone will need 70,000 new workers
during the next decade just to keep pace with the demand for professional roofing
services. Further, the Construction Labor Research Council estimates the construction
industry will require an average of 185,000 new workers per year over the next decade
to meet the labor demands of the industry. I strongly believe that our nation's
immigration policy should ensure U.S. workers are not displaced by foreign-born
workers. However, after decades of engaging in efforts to encourage native-born
U.S. citizens to consider careers in the construction industry, my industry is faced
with the inescapable reality that foreign-born workers are necessary to help fill
the jobs for the construction services and products that U.S. citizens demand.
Unfortunately, current law provides few avenues for construction companies to access
a sustainable supply of essential workers. Current federal quotas limit "green cards"
to 5,000 per year for essential workers. All industries, not just construction,
compete for these scarce permits. To address the concerns created by the ongoing
influx of undocumented workers, and to keep our nation's economy growing, Congress
must deal with the need for a program that can serve as a legal vehicle to help
meet the labor demands of our economy. Anything short of a comprehensive approach
to this challenge will jeopardize any attempt to retake control of our border or
restore the rule of law.
Again, I urge you to support a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that
will strengthen our borders, national security and the economy.