Maine State Chamber of Commerce Recommends the Proposed Rule to Delay and Prohibit Asylum Seeker be Withdrawn
The Maine State Chamber of Commerce recognizes the President and Congress for the actions they have taken to help businesses recover from the COVID-19 epidemic. As our economy rebounds, Maine businesses will need assurances that they can meet all their workforce needs. To that end, it is crucial that they have access to talent both from Maine and other states as well as from around the world. Policies that would, for example, impose wide-ranging bans on the entry of non-immigrant workers or impose burdensome new regulatory requirements would threaten businesses access to that talent, and hinder the economic growth and creating of jobs in Maine.
The consensus is that no matter what sector, from health care to forestry to seafood processing, workforce shortages are a major problem. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic it is expected that Maine will not have enough available workers to drive our economies growth.
There’s only one solution, and that’s to make it easier for immigrants to work in this country long term, not make this more difficult. The Administrations new regulations released on June 26, 2020 would dramatically diminish asylum seekers’ ability to work during the process it takes for their cases to go through the immigration system. The Maine State Chamber of Commerce believes that these restrictive changes to our nation’s immigration system will push investment and economic activity elsewhere, slow growth, and reduce job creation. As our State and Country work to rebuild and reopen after months of being shut down we can not afford to put more restrictions on those who we need to build our economy.
Maine’s rich history, vibrant communities and unparalleled work ethic make our state a fabulous place to work and live. And immigrants have long contributed to that legacy, filling jobs in many of our state’s most crucial industries. This includes health care, where they care for our elders in nursing homes, and tourism, an industry that supports 107,000 jobs, generates $2.5 billion in household income and brings in $600 million in taxes, according to the Maine Office of Tourism. But still, we need more people, especially since the number of deaths in Maine outweighs the number of births annually.
Employers know immigrants arrive here with expertise that doesn’t always translate to the jobs that are available. They’ve told me they’re willing to train new Mainers to help them integrate into their workforce. But first we have to get them here and alleviate them of any additional barriers standing in their way of making the United States their permanent home, attaining a job and making additional contributions to the economy.
Evidence shows that immigrants are also job creators. They found businesses at higher rates than the United States population overall. In Maine, immigrant-owned companies employ 14,031 people and generate $2.3 billion in sales annually, according to the bipartisan nonprofit New American Economy. But legal immigrants who lack green cards are often not allowed to bring their entrepreneurial dreams to fruition. With more than 60 percent of our adult population living in rural areas, Maine is especially dependent on small businesses; they employ more than half of our state’s workforce. Imagine how many more small businesses Maine’s immigrants could start if given the opportunity.
There are no limits to what Maine businesses could offer the world, as long as the government doesn’t limit our access to a willing and able workforce. Immigrants are key to growing our economy. Maine cannot address our workforce needs without being welcoming to immigrants.
The proposed rule unfairly moves the goalposts for gaining asylum for those who already are in the middle of the process. The rule states that currently there are over 866,000 pending asylum claims. The proposed changes, if finalized, would apply to them and would turn what might have been winnable claims into cases that will be denied. Additionally, the proposed rule allows immigration judges to deny asylum seekers’ cases without a hearing. Giving judges the ability to deny an asylum application without providing an unrepresented asylum seeker a chance to more fully explain in a hearing. For these unfair reasons among others, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce recommends the proposed rule be withdrawn in its entirety.