Every time I talk to a contractor these days, one of the biggest issues weighing on their minds is immigration.
It's no secret that our industry relies heavily on immigrants for its workforce. For most of the country it's Latinos, but in some areas a large influx of Eastern Europeans has also occurred. Whatever the source, immigrants are crucial to construction and that's why so many people are worried about the potential curbs on immigration. And yes, many of those immigrants are illegal. For obvious reasons, contractors don't want to be quoted on the subject, but plenty have told me they have no choice but to use illegal immigrant labor.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that these immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans. That's simply not true. Most Americans don't want these jobs. The truth is that most companies would love nothing more than to hire crews full of U.S. citizens that speak English well and aren't going to cause potential immigration problems, but those people aren't applying for these jobs.
From a practical standpoint, kicking every illegal immigrant out of the country would bring the economy to a screeching halt. We need realistic solutions. Yes, we need additional security on our borders, but we also have to realize there are millions of people already here that are important members of society.
A big part of the problem is that our representatives and the public need to be educated. Too many people just don't realize what cutting off immigration would do. Immigrants are the people who are paving our roads and building our homes and schools. I'm shocked at how many people have a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation in the construction industry.
And that's where you come in. Talk to your senators and representatives. Talk to your local business leaders. Make sure they understand the situation beyond the sound bites.
Correction: The CertainTeed Form-A-Drain is now available in a 10-in. by 12-ft. lineal. Incorrect dimensions were published in the August/September issue. Concrete Contractor regrets the error.