Immigration Reform Needed Now

Manufacturing “skills gap” Benefits for diecasters Rights of American workers Economic advantages

After years of wrangling, it’s time for the U.S. Congress to pass a comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform bill. Immigration reform is a major issue for diecasters as we struggle to hire skilled workers for an increasingly advanced technological age while dealing with complex rules regarding the hiring of legal workers.  In a global economy, we cannot afford to waste the talent, skills and potential of workers residing here in the United States.

“Manufacturing is a sleek, technology-focused industry that requires high-skilled workers to drive the innovation that has made us the world’s manufacturing leader,” said NAM president and CEO Jay Timmons recently. “Manufacturers are dealing with a skills gap that has left 600,000 jobs vacant across the nation.”

The type of reform that’s needed
The diecasting industry would benefit from Immigration Reform that accomplishes the following:
•  Improves the employment-based green card system to keep talent within the United States;
•  Streamlines and simplifies the procedures for the temporary or non-immigrant visa
•  Allows for temporary workers and immigrants to meet the needs of employers without displacing American workers
•  Creates other changes to enhance flexibility in responding to demands for the skills necessary to grow America’s economy

In addition, the Immigration Reform legislation should have a reliable, accurate and efficient employment eligibility verification system that also provides fair enforcement of the laws. The current employment verification system creates undue liability for employers, causes increased administrative burdens, and does not deter identity fraud.

What About Illegal Immigrants?

Any new Immigration Reform law must protect the rights of American workers, first and foremost. It should provide a path to permanent residency or citizenship for those illegal immigrants that have been in this country for a given length of time and have demonstrated a positive work ethic.

Such a program would keep families together while creating a large pool of legal workers, many of whom have their high school diploma and college degree. The legislation needs to address the problem of children of illegal immigrants brought to this country by their parents. Often these children have been raised and educated as Americans with high school, college or technical education. Special allowance for such children would provide a path to citizenship in exchange for military service or other local, state or national service.

Combating illegal entry
At the same time, Immigration Reform needs to address how to reduce or eliminate the number of illegal aliens crossing our borders each year. Congress must fund any necessary advanced border security systems and increase the number of border agents to deter future illegal immigration.

Immigration reform also should address the arbitrary way we establish quotas for immigration. Instead of focusing on country of origin, for example, it may be better to focus on the education, skills, and potential contribution of the person seeking legal entry into the US.

Specifics of Immigration Reform can be worked out in Congress, but politicians on the right and left must come at this problem in a spirit of compromise. We are long past the time when America’s industrial base should be held captive by partisan bickering on this important issue.

Good for all
Keeping long-term illegal immigrants in America affords a ready group of workers for available jobs. However, such jobs should not come at the expense of American workers. For the illegals, going “legal” assures they will be paid at least the minimum wage for their work. They will qualify for Social Security at retirement. And they will be enabled to participate in the American free enterprise system.

Legal status allows a budding entrepreneur to start a legal business that creates jobs for Americans while generating local, state and federal tax revenue. This is something we can all be proud of. In addition, with trillions of dollars in deficit spending, it seems clear that building a strong economy is the way we can once again become a strong and healthy nation.  Immigration reform is a vital step toward that goal.

Timmons said, “Comprehensive immigration reform is good for manufacturers, good for the economy and good for the fabric of America. We are bogged down by a broken system that prevents manufacturers from hiring the best people and keeps millions of people living on the edges of society.”

I couldn’t agree more. It’s time for Congress to move forward with Immigration Reform now.

John D. Littler is the president of Littler Diecast Corp., Albany, IN, which specializes in machined aluminum alloy and high-strength ZA-12 and ZA-27 zinc diecasting.

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