Senate Split on Increasing Immigration to Boost Economy

May 10, 2022
3:54 PM

Migrant workers carefully choose and cutoff yellow squash at Kirby Farms in Mechanicsville, Virginia. (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Creative Commons)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As a national labor shortage is contributing to higher prices on consumer goods and increased inflation, some senators tell Latino Rebels that increasing legal immigration can help undermine such pressures on the American economy, while others are not so convinced.

“I just had a group today in from Garden City where there’s a meatpacking plant,” Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) said on Thursday. “They told me they have 30 people on unemployment in the entire country and 3,000 open jobs … and yes, a lot of those jobs probably would go to immigrants.”

Immigration to the United States began to decline following former President Donald Trump’s restrictionist immigration policies, then plummeted further during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Associated Press reported over the weekend that there are roughly two million fewer immigrants in the United States than if the pace had remained what it had been before Trump.

“I’m for increasing legal immigration in both the skilled and unskilled categories,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), “and particularly in the unskilled categories when you’re here for defined work periods.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) echoed Blunt. “There are problems with having enough workers,” Paul said. “I’m not against legal immigration—in fact, I’m for more legal immigration. I have a bill that would double the amount of employment-based visas. I have a bill that would allow some categories of H2 visas to go into H2A. H2B is capped. H2A is not. So we would allow horse workers and landscape workers to be considered H2A. That’s an expansion of work-based visas.”

Paul concedes that not every Republican senator supports his proposals to expand work-based visas.

“A handful, or 10 or 15, might” support his reform proposals, he said. “If you combine that with most of the Democrats, then you’d have incremental immigration reform.”

Blunt agrees that the H2 visa programs could be instrumental in increasing the supply of labor.

“I understand the price impact of not being able to find help and there are ways to do that in both the H2B visas and H2A visas,” Blunt explained. “I’m for meeting the legitimate workforce needs of the country.”

Despite the economic benefits of increased immigration, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) doesn’t see a path forward for immigration reforms that would ease inflationary pressures.

“Until you fix the illegal immigration crisis, you’re not gonna do anything on legal immigration,” Rubio said.

On the Democratic side of the aisle, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) shared Rubio’s pessimism, telling Latino Rebels last week that the window for immigration reform in the current Congress had basically closed because Republicans were negotiating in bad faith on the issue.

Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) still hopes that something can be done.

“An increase in immigration in the United States will address many of the challenges and shortfalls that exist in the workforce, in addition to supporting the economy and social security as well,” said Lujan.

“As of right now there’s a shortage in meat processors, for example,” Lujan continued, “and if you have more people that are able to work in meat processing facilities meeting the demands, then having more supply is definitely going to have a positive aspect on prices.”


Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports