A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

The Trades Go Wanting for Workers While Obama Stalls on Immigration [VIDEO]

President Obama over the weekend backed away from his own timeline on executive action for immigration policy, something that's been a top concern for construction and other industries that find it difficult to find a sufficient number of authorized workers.

In the 3½-minute video below from NBC’s Meet the Press, Obama blamed the delay on the shifting politics of the issue brought on by the crisis along the Texas-Mexico border.  That’s after NBC’s Chuck Todd pressed the president on whether he is dragging his feet because Democratic senators in Republican states fear a backlash at the polls in November:

“‘The truth of the matter is that the politics did shift midsummer because of that problem,’ Obama said.  ‘I want to spend some time, even as we're getting all our ducks in a row for the executive action, I also want to make sure that the public understands why we're doing this, why it's the right thing for the American people, why it's the right thing for the American economy.’”

In the Houston Chronicle, reporter Lomi Kriel notes that Texas business leaders met weeks ago with top White House advisers:

“They say they've lost tens of thousands of qualified workers under increased workplace raids instituted by the Obama administration, which has been tougher on employers who hire illegal immigrants than any other administration in decades.

“‘To us this makes good sense,’ said Houston construction veteran Stan Marek, CEO of the Marek Family of Companies, who met with Obama's staff last month.  ‘Most of these parents have been here for years, and many had good jobs but lost them due to enforcement.’

“About half of all Texas construction workers are here illegally, according to a report last year by the Workers Defense Project and the University of Texas.  In Houston's roaring market, it's particularly tough for employers to scoop up workers.  Wages have skyrocketed.

“‘We don't have a sustainable workforce to do what we need to do right now in Texas,’ said Gregg Reyes, CEO of the Houston-based Reytec Construction Resources Inc., who said seven out of every 10 of his applicants don't have proper work authorization.  ‘We can only bid on the projects we have people for, and it's a struggle to hire folks to do the work who are legal.’”

Kriel also spoke with immigration attorney Beto Cardenas, who was also at those White House meetings last month:

“…his construction clients pressed the administration to ensure any new work permits require immigrants to work for legitimate companies that pay taxes.  He said his clients are undercut by companies which subcontract with illegal workers, shrouding them from having to verify their legal status.  More than 40 percent of construction employees are wrongly classified as independent contractors, according to the UT report.

“The hotel and restaurant industries say they're also facing critical worker shortages and want some sort of legal status for the workforce that is already here, said Richie Jackson, who heads the Texas Restaurant Association.  In parts of West and South Texas, restaurants simply don't have enough staff to stay open every day or serve all their customers, he said.  Most industries with unfilled work needs ‘can just export those jobs.  Textiles are made in China, software is created in India,’ he said.  ‘We can't export jobs.  We need to import workers.’”

Your thoughts are welcome in the comments.


Richard Shaw's picture

I am as upset as you are about President Obama's inaction on immigration. However, if any of your readers voted Republician, they have no right to complain. Any astute political observer knows this. He does not want Democrats to face the Republician baclash. I bet there are Republicians who want him to act but will not stand up for him when he does.

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