This week, we read about how the US labor shortage is affecting immigrants and how the Democrats are rethinking their approach to get immigration reform passed.
Immigrants could help the US labor shortage — if the government would let them
More than a million immigrants are waiting to receive their work permits from the U.S. government. As the labor shortage accelerates in some industries, this puts immigrants and employers in a precarious situation.
Under normal circumstances, work permits are issued in a reasonable timeframe. However, due to the backlog, immigrants such as Biraj Nepal are at risk of losing their jobs.
“It’s a critical situation here. I’m in a financial crisis,” Nepal said. “We are being punished by the government without doing any crime.”
USCIS is now taking up to a year to process work permits. The backlog was at more than 1.48 million pending applications as of last year. However, this does not account for the people who have already lost their jobs due to the delay.
Many industries that are experiencing a job shortage rely heavily on immigrant employees. Though, immigrants in need of work permits are being adversely affected by the backlog more than anyone.
The pandemic has only made the backlog worse. President Biden has taken some measures to combat the backlog, such as waiving fingerprinting requirements in some cases and extending the validity period of one-year work permits to two years for some immigrants seeking humanitarian relief.
The situation continues to negatively impact immigrants and their families, and their ability to work and survive in the U.S.
With immigration bill in flux, Democrats mull executive action
As democrats struggle to pass immigration legislation, they’re considering alternative strategies. Many are calling on President Biden to take executive action for reform. In particular, lawmakers and advocates are hoping to get relief through temporary protected status (TPS). TPS can especially help immigrants fleeing crisis.
Immigrants who have TPS are protected from deportation and are eligible for work in the U.S. Expanding eligibility for TPS would help thousands of immigrants in crisis find stability.
TPS gives immigrants from countries in crisis and conflict the ability to stay in the U.S. without fear of returning to the home country they fled. Currently, only 12 countries benefit from the rule.
Lawmakers say making new groups of immigrants eligible could help bring relief to the immigrant community. In particular, lawmakers are pushing to expand TPS eligibility to Central American immigrants.
Democrats hoped that their comprehensive immigration plan would be passed. Though, it was rejected by the Senate parliamentarian repeatedly.
Additionally, it has been challenging for Congress to reach agreement on immigration, especially with the upcoming midterm election. While some are ready to give up, other lawmakers are looking for alternatives.
President Biden has taken some action in expanding TPS. Though, his efforts have been halted by an ongoing lawsuit involving the Trump administration.
“TPS was one of these things that they could have resolved on Day One, and they didn’t do it,” said Erik Villalobos of the National TPS Alliance. “We’re still waiting to see where this lawsuit is going.”