As Gregg pointed out recently, we’re interested in knowing how Barack Obama’s immigration reform proposal will affect staffing. The bill has yet to be officially released (though there’s lots of rumors about it being “leaked”), so we realize that some of the opinions being thrown out there are mere conjecture at this point. But there’s at least some information we can agree on, like the fact that it will undoubtedly have an impact on staffing.

For one, the proposed bill would grant amnesty to hundreds of thousands to work here – and that will probably mean (among other things) a bigger pool of candidates to draw from. Some say that most are unskilled and will only add to the unemployment numbers, while others say that every individual skilled foreigner could mean an added 2.62 jobs for Americans.

The opinions on this topic are varied, as you can see from the staffing professionals’ opinions below. But no matter where you personally fall on this issue (and we welcome you to share it in the comments below), it’s clear that immigration reform is a complicated topic that has definite ties and implications to the staffing industry.

Ingram Losner
co-founder & CFO of Proven, Inc.

There is no simple answer! Just like if somebody asks a question
about the economy, or “are we better off than we were four years ago?,” it all depends on your perspective and the context.

In short, the answer to the question is that it really depends on your overall view of the relationship between immigration and economic growth; the demographics of the people involved; the skill sets of those being offered the “amnesty.” It’s very complex!

Overall, however, there has to be a net benefit, economically and culturally. These folks are now being allowed to emerge “from the shadows” and become fully-fledged and legal. Able to take their full place at the table and able to contribute as producers and consumers without the fear of being classified as “illegal” and threatened with deportation.

America’s economic engine has been fuelled by immigration for over 200 years. 21st century economic consumption, particularly among the 18-30 demographic (the very group so predominant within the “amnesty” group), dwarfs that compared to other groups. With consumption comes growth and the creation of precisely the kind of demand for products, services, and, most importantly, the people who manufacture, design, market, and sell the products and services.

The wider issue for professional staffing is the major shortage of skilled personnel in the technology sectors. Immigration requirements need to be further simplified to allow people that have earned their degrees here and interned here as students to stay and become full members of the workforce. To have highly skilled folks from China and India return to the countries of their birth when their strong preference is to remain here is economic suicide. Why are we training them to compete against us?

Kristie Bonnell
staffing consultant with Express Employment Professionals

Do I think it’d be positive or negative? Positive. Definitely. Because,
number one, we have a lot of aliens coming to us already and, if they’re not documented workers, we have to turn them away. (We use eVerify.) In our business and based on the way the job market is right now, it’d be really beneficial to get them in. We’re missing out on a workforce that’s already going to work.

We know these undocumented workers are out there working. They have had jobs right here, and good jobs at local businesses that we know. But we have to turn them away, and it’s especially tough when you know they’re really good employees. So my issue with this is simple: They need to work and they’re here asking for help, but we have to turn them away.

Our so-called “unskilled” labor force is in a really sad state right now. No one wants to do the unskilled labor anymore. They’re holding out for the “awesome” jobs and great money. But the demand is there; people still need a general workforce. And if I could get them through the system, you bet I would.

For the past 10 years I’ve even worked right next to someone who came over during the last amnesty in 1984, I think, as a small child. So, you bet I’m behind it.

Tom Landry
president of Texas Association of Staffing and Allegiance Staffing

Here is the conflict: what is good for business might not be good for
the country. Adding all these limited skill people to an already bloated unemployment pool will drive down wages, add more dependents on government services, and ultimately hurt the people that the morons in Washington claim to be protecting. Doesn't anybody have any desire for anything but a vote anymore?

Aldo Delli Paoli
freelance consultant operating from Italy

Almost every country in the world has had to deal with both the problems of unemployment and the shortage of professional skills. In my view, allow people to work where their particular specialization is in high demand. Besides being a rational and appropriate solution to address these problems, it seems to be an act of solidarity-based civilization.

Very often, immigrants are a real asset to a country. But I would also broaden the discourse to another type of immigrant who, for purely bureaucratic reasons (the procedure of sponsorship), is forced to leave the U.S. – penalized because they have complied with the law to avoid becoming illegal. Though every country has the right to set its own rules on immigration, it is my personal opinion that if a country allows a person (who has entered legally) to study, invest financial resources and personal commitment, obtain a degree and professional skills that allow him/her to find a job there, share their culture, way of life, laws, and have his/her expertise at the disposal of that community, that country should also guarantee the work permit – if not automatically, at least with a path faster and less demanding than for any other immigrant. It’s a shame that all these resources go to waste, and even more so when we have shortages of certain professional skills.

Legalization would also be in the interest of those potential employers who would hire those people but are discouraged by the lengthy, difficult, and uncertain procedure of “sponsorship.” Unfortunately, many civilized, multi-racial, and multicultural countries, including my own, don't realize how late they are to this issue in an increasingly globalized world.

Tags: Business, Express Employment Professionals, Aldo Delli Paoli, Allegiance Staffing, Immigration reform, Ingram Losner, Kristie Bonnell, Obama, Proven Inc., Teaxs Association of Staffing, Tom Landry