Small business owners urge senators to support immigrant reform to address worker shortage
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina small business owners and state organizations are calling on U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott to support bipartisan immigration reform.
On Wednesday, the Carolinas Chapter of the American Business Immigration Coalition along with the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce and other organizations held a series of news conferences to urge the senators to support solutions that will address a nation-wide worker shortage.
Frank Knapp, the president and CEO of the SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce, said there are two critical issues for small businesses in South Carolina and across the country right now: there is a labor shortage and a 40-year low in new business start-ups.
He believes both problems can be addressed with ‘common-sense’ immigration solutions.
“When we come out of the pandemic and come back to normal, we will still have a labor shortage and it’s going to get worse because the jobs that we are in need of are for the youth, and we’re just not producing them,” Knapp said. “We know people all over the world want to come live in this country and work in this country and contribute to our economy. No other country has this kind of opportunity. We need to grasp it.”
The groups are calling on the senators to support a Senate companion bill to the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which would provide undocumented farmworkers with a path to citizenship.
They also want them to support the Dream Act, which would also provide a path to citizenship for people who came to the U.S. as children, and the SECURE act, which would provide legal status to those with temporary protected status.
The groups say immigrants in South Carolina have created more than 25,000 new businesses and generate more than $720 million in business revenue.
They also contribute billions of dollars to the South Carolina economy ever year.
Organizations like the Charleston Hispanic Association believe that by providing immigrants with these opportunities, the number of workers to fill positions will increase.
“The number one call we get at the Charleston Hispanic Association is from American businesses,” Charleston Hispanic Association CFO Enrique Grace said. ”American businesses right now are pleading for workers, and we have a vast majority of people who want to work but can’t.”
Jonatan Guerrero-Ramirez is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient and entrepreneur in the Charleston area. He says the DACA program has given him many opportunities, and he hopes more can be done so other people will be given the chance to get an education and work a good job.
“People always talk about the American dream, and if you work hard, it’s possible. But we DACA recipients have been working hard to start our businesses, to pay our taxes, and provide support to our families,” Guerrero- Ramirez said. “Passing the Dream Act is the new dream that we need here in America.”
Last month, Graham said he doesn’t see any chance of immigration reform right now given the massive influx at the border.
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