three slanted linesABCs

News from associated
builders and contractors

Washington Update

Politics Over Policy: Border Security and Immigration Reform

By Kristen Swearingen


March 21, 2024

Construction Executive Cover Art

With the Senate-negotiated border deal now dead and buried, the Senate moved forward with a bipartisan package to provide critical funding to U.S. allies Ukraine and Israel. While the $95-billion national security supplemental appropriations bill passed in a 70–29 bipartisan vote in February, 28 of the votes in opposition came from Republicans.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has stated he would not put the bill on the House floor for a vote as currently written and continues to push the House-passed Secure the Border Act as a necessary companion to any national security proposal.

Congress’s delay in addressing America’s border security and immigration system continues to perpetuate the workforce shortage being experienced by employers nationwide. Throughout the 118th Congress, the porous nature of the United States’ southern border has received significant attention and has been a top priority for Republican policymakers.
But, as in any presidential election year, politics often wins over policy.


ABC estimates that the construction industry must attract 501,000 additional workers above the standard pace of hiring to meet 2024 labor demand. While employers have sought workers to fulfill existing backlogs and plan for future projects, they have been unable to do so at the local level. And there is even more demand on the horizon, as more than a trillion dollars in infrastructure spending from recently passed legislation such as the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act flows into the market.

To overcome this challenge, employers have turned to hiring foreign workers via H-2B visa programs as well as hiring foreign workers already in the United States who have temporary protected status. While these programs provide opportunities for employers and workers, significant uncertainty and complexities accompany them. Specifically, the shifting nature of TPS status makes it unreliable for business and workers alike. On the other hand, the H-2B program cap prevents the program from meeting actual worker demand while requiring employers to undergo a costly and time-consuming petition process with no guarantee of success.

The combination of America’s workforce shortage and the complicated, uncertain and expensive process of obtaining legal workers limits the construction industry’s ability to perform infrastructure improvements at the pace our communities require.


To support the construction industry in advancing communities across America, Congress must advance an efficient immigration system capable of responding to labor-market demand. These reforms should maintain the investments businesses have already made in their current legal-immigrant workforce while at the same time allowing them to obtain an adequate workforce in labor markets where local workers are unable to meet demand.

As the 118th Congress remains in session through Jan. 3, 2025, legislators have time to advance solutions to the nation’s workforce shortage while strengthening border security. ABC will continue to advocate for solutions to this urgent situation.

April 2024 Issue
Washington Update
Politics Over Policy: Border Security and Immigration Reform
CEO Insights
Opening the Pipeline: A Merit-Based Worker Visa to Address the Workforce Shortage

Follow us

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Stay in the know with the latest industry news, technology and our weekly features. Get early access to any CE events and webinars.