Latino workforce
Immigrant labor might be able to alleviate some of the burden from the current labor shortage. This is a representational image. Pexels

NEW YORK CITY - Since the COVID-19 pandemic, a record number of Americans have quit their jobs in a movement that later became known as "The Great Resignation." In 2023, for instance, 30.5 million workers resigned their positions as of August, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The effects of The Great Resignation are still being grappled with by major industries, who are to this day struggling with a labor shortages. Though politicians in Washington keep looking for ways to remedy this trend, one solution seems to be an elephant in the room: more immigrants.

An influx of immigrants pouring off the southern border—partly due to pandemic-era upheaval— has sent politicians on Capitol Hill cramming for solutions to stop this process while also trying to appease an inflamed anti-immigrant sentiment among voters. Meanwhile, big cities filled with large numbers of newcomers see themselves struggling to secure work permits due to an overwhelmed government bureaucracy.

Tensions ahead of the November elections, coupled with high polarization in Congress, recently derailed one compromise bill aimed at starting to address the situation in the U.S.-Mexico border and also has stymied any chance of legislation to bolster legal immigration to alleviate the worker shortage, Bloomberg News reported.

Such process have left businesses wondering if there is any viable bipartisan plan that could help their current situation.

"I can't have a conversation with any business owner that doesn't revolve around the fact that they simply cannot find the skilled workforce they need," Jay Timmons, chief executive officer of the National Association of Manufacturers told the outlet.

Some 9 million positions are open across the country, which has resulted in the worst affected industries trying to make themselves be heard.

The Critical Labor Coalition, which included Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., has advised its members to avoid using the word "immigration" due to its current political gravitas, and instead talk about "workforce solutions."

Women working Chevanon Photography from Pexels

On the other hand, representatives of nursing homes are telling lawmakers that without more immigrants to make meals and empty bedpans, their industry is headed for an all-out crisis.

It is important to note, however, that industry groups are careful to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration, and most say investing in skills and training for those already in the U.S. labor force should be part of the solution, Bloomberg News emphasizes.

Effects of immigration in the workforce and the earning of American workers are constantly debated.

On one hand, some economists argue that an influx of migrants threatens to undercut wages and worsen conditions in some industries. The Congressional Budget Office cautioned in a Feb. 7 report that more migrants mean wages will rise more slowly, in part reflecting the increase in the number of lower-skilled workers.

On the other hand, the CBO analysis also found that immigration would add around $7 trillion to the economy over the coming decade by expanding the labor force and adding demand. That would also help boost federal government tax revenue by $1 trillion.

But despite controversy, it is a reality that the U.S. heavily relies on immigrant workers—legal and undocumented— for its economic growth, since they make up about 15% of the population, an analysis by the conservative think tank Center for Immigration Studies found. Similarly, foreign-born workers made up a record 18.6% of the civilian workforce in 2023.

Despite the lack of actions, lawmakers have continued to introduce more than 360 bills related to immigration, according to the website The long list included a bipartisan proposal to extend the number of temporary work authorizations and multiple billsmI aimed at shortening visa backlogs. However, polarization has caused a great deal of them to die prematurely.

"Even using the word 'immigration' on the Hill is something you do not want to do, because it is so political right now," Misty Chally, executive director of the Critical Labor Coalition, told Bloomberg. "I have been doing this for 25 years now, and I have never seen it this partisan."

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