Some say migrants could stem inflation by easing labor shortage problems

WASHINGTON, DC – Everyone feels the pain: at the gas pump, at the grocery store, in the electric bill.

On May 11, the government announced that the average prices of consumer goods and services had increased by 8.3% compared to a year ago.

Some factors include the pandemic and Russia’s attack on Ukraine, and some say it’s also an effect of fewer immigrants being allowed into the country.

A May 7 Associated Press article said that by some estimates the United States has 2 million fewer immigrants “than it would have if the pace had remained the same, helping to fuel a rush Desperate for workers in many industries, from meatpacking to building homes, it’s also contributing to supply shortages and rising prices.

The story said that “after immigration to the United States dwindled under the Trump administration — then came to an almost complete halt for 18 months during the coronavirus pandemic — the country is waking up to a labor shortage. partly fueled by this slowdown”.

Labor shortages have contributed to the slow supply of goods in the country, to a loss of crops for American farmers because they cannot find workers and to the reduction of business hours in the restaurants and retail stores.

“We have people who want to work, standing at the border. We need them to come and help us. Restaurants open fewer days, open fewer tables, hotels no longer serve rooms as before. I mean, we urgently need it,” former Arizona state senator Bob Worsley said at a September 2021 immigration conference sponsored by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, the Georgetown University Law School and the Migration Policy Institute.

Worsley, a Republican, along with other members of the American Business Immigration Coalition, expressed frustration with the lack of political progress in Congress on immigration issues that could give the US economy some breathing room, saying especially coming out of two years of the coronavirus pandemic.

Republicans like Worsley are increasingly supportive of measures that would allow migrants to cross the border, largely due to economic factors. Democrats have made, overall, a humanitarian argument saying that many come to the United States to protect themselves from domestic dangers.

When participants from Hispanic Catholic ministry gathered in the Washington area for their sixth Raices y Alas (Roots and Wings) national convention in late April, they took part in a day of advocacy with lawmakers on both sides for a immigration reform.

The event at the United States Capitol included a press conference with two Republicans, Daniel Garza of the FREE Initiative and Congressman Dan Newhouse of Washington State, accompanied by a Democrat, Congressman Salud Carbajal from California.

“We come in prayer to ask members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, to work together to create solutions,” said Auxiliary Bishop of Washington Mario E. Dorsonville, chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Committee on Migration. from the United States, who met with the group. . “Immigration reform cannot wait any longer.”

The USCCB, along with many Catholic groups, has long advocated for immigration reform with both major political parties in the United States because responding to the vulnerable is what the Gospel calls Christians to do, have said the bishops and Catholic groups about their efforts.

Even though politicians on both sides of the political aisle say they want a solution, for different reasons, growing polarization in the United States appears to be hampering negotiations.

“We have a lot of job offers and a lot of people want to come here and have a better life. The math is pretty simple, but having the political will to do such things is a whole other story,” Indianapolis political commentator Abdul-Hakim Shabazz wrote in a May 11 op-ed in the Indian daily Kokomo Tribune. .

He discussed the need to allow high-skilled and low-skilled immigrants to mitigate not only inflation, but also the country’s shrinking labor force.

“Now that’s where the whining and gnashing of teeth about ‘securing the border’ comes in. However, no one can explain to me what that means or, for that matter, what a ‘secure border’ looks like. “”, he wrote. .

“However, suppose we want to address our labor shortage, which is one of the causes of inflation, because employers have to pay more,” he continued. “In that case, we have to deal with our immigration and make it easier for people to come here and get the jobs that we won’t do.”

Politicians such as Newhouse and Carbajal see a path to bipartisanship on immigration issues in the Farm Labor Modernization Act, which passed the House of Representatives twice with Republican support .

This would allow agricultural workers who are in the country without legal authorization to apply for legal temporary immigration status and then permanent residency, eventually leading to citizenship.

The bill would only address legalization for a small group of the estimated more than 10 million migrants who are in the country without permission and would only alleviate some of the economic problems. But some hope that addressing the country’s agricultural problems with immigrants as a solution would open a much-needed bipartisan window to collaborate on other efforts.

“The push to create a pathway to legal status for agricultural workers has drawn additional attention amid broader labor shortages, supply chain issues and new stresses on the global food system. resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” said an April 14 Bloomberg Law article saying the wheels are moving, albeit slowly, in Congress to strike a deal before the midterm elections in November. .

The Washington-based publication Roll Call in a May 9 article said Republicans in the House were looking to those in the Senate to garner the 60 votes the farmworkers’ proposal needed to move forward.

But there are fears politicians will back down depending on what happens on the southern border when the government lifts the Title 42 health measure on May 23. This will allow those seeking asylum, which has been significantly limited during the pandemic.

But some fear the lifting of the order could be an opportunity to fan political fires, portray the situation as a crisis and sound the death knell for what remains of bipartisan immigration and relief efforts. that migrants might be able to provide.

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