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ICYMI — The Washington Post: A broken immigration system keeps workers out of jobs the U.S. needs to fill

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American businesses can’t get the workers they need due to out-of-date immigration policy

New York, NY A recent article in the Washington Post underscored how the labor shortage is impacting communities all across the country – from New York to North Dakota. 

Noting that, “despite growing demand to help fill 8.7 million open jobs with skilled and unskilled foreign-born workers, strict quotas keep out millions of qualified immigrants every year.” At every step of the immigration process, skilled and in-demand workers face countless obstacles, including “record delays,” “a backed-up processing queue,” and “years-long waits for final interviews.” 

As delays in the immigration system keep workers from filling open jobs, the article highlights those impacts to communities that already faced a low supply of skilled workers before the pandemic, including “in North Dakota, where the nursing shortage is compounded by an unemployment rate of just 1.9%…” 

North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer recognizes the role immigrants can play in strengthening the workforce, calling “efforts to expand legal immigration ‘low-hanging fruit’ that would help his state, which struggles to attract U.S. workers to its economy, dependent on gas and oil extraction”

“For too long, federal inaction has allowed our immigration system to break down and the repercussions are harming our communities and businesses. From New York to North Dakota, businesses are facing a worker shortage and the federal government needs to create more pathways for immigrants to enter our workforce. Health care and elder care are particular areas of need in both rural and urban areas. New York has the opportunity to lead once more. Our elected leaders at every level of government must act to improve access to jobs and legal services and deliver real solutions for our state and our immigrant communities.” said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition.

Read highlights below: 

The Washington Post: A broken immigration system keeps workers out of jobs the U.S. needs to fill

[…]

It was one more gut punch from a broken immigration system untouched by Congress for 33 years and largely operating on a framework dating to 1965. As a record surge of unauthorized migrants enters the United States through its southern border, stoking political divisions and straining resources, the troubled system for those eligible to come here legally has buckled in the background. Congress splintered over the issue again this month, as Republicans resisted calls from the Biden administration for more aid to Ukraine unless it comes with more-stringent border policies.

Since Congress last updated the number of new arrivals the country will admit each year — a tiny fraction of whom are allowed to come in permanently to work — the economy is more than twice as large. But despite growing demand to help fill 8.7 million open jobs with skilled and unskilled foreign-born workers, strict quotas keep out millions of qualified immigrants every year. Demand was so high this year that the State Department was forced to restrict many types of visas, including — for the first time in years — those for nurses.

Getting a coveted pass to enter the United States means waiting in backlogs for years in a neglected bureaucracy of overlapping, resource-starved federal agencies. There are record delays at an obscure Labor Department office, a backed-up processing queue at a Homeland Security agency so overburdened that it has wasted thousands of untouched green card applications, and years-long waits for final interviews at some U.S. consulates.

[…]

The Bismarck hospital’s stalled pursuit of foreign-born nurses underscores how the legal immigration system is failing a vital U.S. industry. Thousands of well-qualified workers overseas are ready to recharge a field decimated by pandemic burnout and retirements at a time when baby boomers are experiencing increasing health problems. But most can’t get here, even with a well-funded employer like Sanford spending millions — including $5,000 in immigration-related fees for each nurse — and employing a small army of immigration experts.

[…] 

Now lobbyists for Sanford and others have turned to the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, introduced by Cramer and Durbin, which would boost visas for immigrant nurses and physicians by allowing the State Department to issue thousands of green cards left on the table in previous years. The bill failed to find traction after it was first proposed in 2021, but the two lawmakers have reintroduced it.

Partisan pressure remains high. Back home, Cramer has been denounced by conservatives and right-wing media for bucking Republican orthodoxy on immigration.

“I get dragged through the mud on this issue,” the senator said in an interview.

He called efforts to expand legal immigration “low-hanging fruit” that would help his state, which struggles to attract U.S. workers to its economy, dependent on gas and oil extraction. In a less polarized Congress, such legislation should easily have made it to the floor, the senator said. But after 11 years in Congress, he says, he’s a realist: “I’ve learned that nothing is going to happen quickly in Washington.”