Are Immigration Laws Slowing The United States Economy?

To say conflict has been brewing in the United States would widely be heard as a magnificent understatement. There are only two political parties operating in our country, and they rarely see eye-to-eye. They fight about civil rights. They fight about voting rights. The fight about immigrant rights. Although each of these issues has the power to end the status quo as we know it, it’s the latter that could topple our economy sooner.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said late last month that around 11 million jobs are unfilled. This isn’t news. We’ve been hearing about employment shortages for at least a year. It’s still surprising, though, because we also hear the news that millions are quitting their jobs in search of other work — and that millions more are being hired according to monthly jobs reports.

So why are there so many unfilled positions? Part of the reason is obvious. In 2020, consumer spending slowed and the economy ground to a halt. But in the last half of 2021, consumer spending exploded — and has yet to slow down. This spending requires businesses to hire employees they didn’t need even before the pandemic. On top of the extra work required, the pandemic showed some employees exactly how governments and fellow citizens felt about people who worked in essential jobs. They weren’t treated well. They weren’t paid well. Why would they stay in those positions?

COVID-19 is ongoing as well, and has prevented those with immune vulnerabilities from returning to work. But another reason that there are so many open positions is that older Americans are retiring — and retiring earlier than they would have due to the ongoing pandemic.

In particular, Western Pennsylvania residents know that economic concerns won’t go away anytime soon. Pennsylvania Governor Wolf signed an executive order to increase workplace safety. 

But how much of the labor shortage is due to immigration policy?

One of the biggest shortages is in the trucking industry, where employers simply don’t have enough drivers for their trucks. Combined with the need for additional shipping, and you can see why store shelves are still empty two years into the pandemic. Many trucking positions were filled by immigrants, but those individuals are less likely to travel overseas because of closures. Immigration is at a stand-still. It doesn’t help that the world has been watching the border crisis, where migrants have been seeking asylum for over a year.

That crisis, coupled with the bad taste left over from the Trump Administration’s harsh policies toward immigration could mean trouble for the U.S. work force.

Tens of thousands of new guest-worker visas were announced late last year by the Biden Administration — but those visas are seasonal and expire quickly. Still, they allow employers to find temporary immigrant workers to fill agricultural positions. But how many immigrants will want those temporary visas? The clock is ticking, and we don’t yet have an answer.