Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The case for legal immigration reform: ‘If I have more workers … I can expand my business’

by BIZ Magazine

By Thaddeus Swanek, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Thaddeus is a senior writer and editor with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’

Businesses across the country are eager to grow and expand, but many are facing a daunting challenge: not being able to find enough workers to meet customer demand.  

America’s persistent worker shortage is a common problem for businesses in every sector. But in one small town near Phoenix, it’s not just a story from newspaper headlines—it’s personal.  

“I haven’t talked to a small business owner in the last couple years who has told me that they have no problem finding people,” says Richard Cardew, founder and managing member of Cardew Hay Co. in Buckeye, Arizona. “I mean reliable people who will show up on time, do a good job, and take pride in their work.” 

Cardew believes modernizing America’s immigration system to better meet our nation’s economic needs is key to helping alleviate this ongoing worker shortage.

“With enough workers, we could grow exponentially,” Cardew says. “There is plenty of work, I’m booked all the time. But we’re stuck in the mud as far as growth goes. There’s plenty of product, there’s just no way to get it there without the people.” 

Cardew says he has been able to find three employees to work consistently at his company, which transports high-performance hay used in top equestrian events. Ideally, Cardew says he would need at least 10 hard-working employees to fulfill existing orders and then help expand his business.   

Cardew explains how the nature of the work discourages new applicants and can drive away those who initially make a commitment.  

“It’s a hard job. You’re unloading 100-pound bales of hay in Arizona in the summer in a metal barn. It might be 120 degrees. It’s just tough to find people willing to do that,” Cardew says. “For the most part, Americans don’t apply for these sorts of jobs.”  

Cardew says the current temporary worker visa classifications do not work for his business due to their rigid eligibility requirements. Unfortunately, these problems are shared by businesses in many other industries. Cardew emphasized that the U.S. immigration system needs to respond to the needs of businesses like his. Specifically, our laws should provide his company with the ability to meet its present and future workforce needs when he cannot find enough American workers to fill all of Cardew Hay’s job openings. His current inability to find workers is inhibiting his company’s ability to grow and prosper.

“I want to hire someone, treat them well, and have them become a part of the team and make a career out of it,” Cardew says.  

Cardew is no stranger to taking part in tough conversations around immigration. As a small business owner who believes in reforming and expanding legal immigration, he finds plenty to talk about with neighbors, family members, and other small business leaders. 

But, he says, it’s a vital conversation worth having—now more than ever. 

“When you say ‘immigration’ it’s an emotional thing. I can sit and talk to MAGA Republicans and Bernie Democrats and have a respectful, civil dialogue,” Cardew says. “We need a secure border—and at the same time—we also need immigration reform. At the end of the day, if I have more workers available, I can expand my business.”  

Our current immigration system fails to meet the needs of businesses like Cardew Hay Co. and imposes significant costs on American communities and our economy.  

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce—together with over 440 business associations from all 50 states—launched the LIBERTY Campaign to secure our borders and modernize our antiquated, broken legal immigration system. 

These issues can only be addressed with bipartisan Congressional action, and the LIBERTY Campaign is committed to working with all members of Congress who want secure borders and a modernized legal immigration system.  

Learn more about LIBERTY here.  

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