PHOENIX, Ariz. – Over seventy business and community leaders are calling on Arizona Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly to lead efforts on including meaningful immigration reform in the final Build Back Better bill being considered before Congress.
“This action is urgently needed to address the acute labor shortage across the state, and it is morally right and politically smart,” the business leaders stated in a letter to the senators delivered Wednesday. Those who signed the letter, representing every sector of the economy, included Bob Worsley, former AZ Republican State Senator, Founder of SkyMall and Co-Chair of the American Business Immigration Coalition; Richard H. Dozer, former President, Arizona Diamondbacks and former VP and Chief Operating Officer, Phoenix Suns; Kimber Lanning, CEO, Local First Arizona; Jason Rowley, President & CEO, Phoenix Suns; Reyna Montoya, Founder & CEO, Aliento; Philip L. Francis, Former Chairman & CEO, PetSmart; Karla Morales, Chair, Tucson Hispanic Chamber; Neil Giuliano, Former Mayor, Tempe, Arizona; and J. Doug Pruitt, Former Chairman, Sundt Construction.
“The time for immigration reform at the federal level is now and our Arizona senators are key to getting this done to ensure its success,” Worsley said during a press call following the delivery of the letter to the senators. “The urgency is clear. Our nation faces an acute labor shortage. The U.S. economy has 10.9 million job openings. Arizona has an estimated 181,000 jobs open. These temporary provisions and longer-term solutions will help ease this shortage,” Worsley added.
“The Senate Parliamentarian is a hired advisor to the Democrats,” continued Worsley. “As a CEO, I hire people to give me advice – I accept good advice, and I reject bad advice. But at the end of the day I am the final decision maker. If the Parliamentarian advises against these work permits, our elected leaders – our senators – have the power and responsibility to disregard her opinion and finally give a path to citizenship to our hardworking immigrants.”
The House-passed legislation includes temporary work authorizations and deportation protections that would enable an estimated 7 million immigrants to participate more fully in our economy.
Pruitt noted that immigration reform would address the labor shortage that is hurting the construction industry and causing costs to rise, forcing consumers to pay the price. He called it “mind numbing” that Congress has refused to fix the immigration system and provide permanent status and a pathway to citizenship.
“Lack of solutions is creating a lot of anger and hatred. It’s time for the county to deal with this subject. Congress should have the courage to do what’s right….I call on our two senators to have the courage and step up and do what is right for America and pass this legislation,” Pruitt said. “The construction industry currently has a shortage of about 300,000 skilled workers…the construction industry also relies heavily on about 135,000 skilled trade workers that are made up of either DACA or TPS-protected immigrants.”
Congress should look toward providing Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, farmworkers, and essential workers with immigration relief as a solution to ease tensions in our economy, and “Arizona’s Senators are key” to making this legislative effort a success, the letter also stated.
It has been 35 years since Congress updated our immigration laws. The U.S. economy has 10.9 million job openings, and Arizona has an estimated 181,000 jobs open. The time for action is now and there is bipartisan support behind these efforts.
The letter also noted that the household income of Arizona’s undocumented immigrants is $5.1 billion per year, they pay $556.5 million in taxes each year, and their total spending power is $4.5 billion annually. “They are Arizonans and Americans in every way, except paperwork,” the Arizona business leaders said.
Other key quotes from today’s news conference follow:
Enrique Sanchez, Intermountain State Director, ABIC: “My family and I immigrated to the United States in 2000 when I was only two years old. I’ve lived my entire life in the United States and I am a DACA recipient and a Dreamer. Since I was eight years old, I dreamed of joining law enforcement. I was disappointed to learn that because of my immigration status, I am barred from becoming a police officer. A pathway to citizenship would help remove barriers that stand in my and many other Dreamers’ way of achieving our dreams.”
State Representative Lorenzo Sierra: “Arizona has always been and should always be the place where immigration solutions are fostered. We have a rich history of Arizonans bringing forward solutions. We have a rich history that I hope Senators Kelly and Sinema take up.”
Jose Patiño, Director of Education and External Affairs, Aliento and a DACA recipient: “While I’m blessed to have DACA, it’s frustrating to keep having to apply, especially when kids depend on you. We’re looking for solutions so we can contribute and give back to this country we love so much.”