BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — The president of a Birmingham-based construction trade group says employers who count on immigrants to help fill jobs are calling lawmakers to help them fix a job shortage caused by Alabama’s new immigration law.
Jay Reed of Associated Builders Contractors, who along with Johnny Adams of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association co-chairs a group that calls itself Alabama Employers for Immigration Reform, said the group made up of about 15 trade groups held an emergency meeting today in response to what he called a disappointing ruling by a federal judge who let most of Alabama’s new immigration bill stand Wednesday.
“As an association, we certainly hoped more thought would be given to the message HB56 sent to those working here legally,” Reed said. “We have come up with a three-prong approach we are asking lawmakers to take to address this issue - education, new legislation, and vocational career training.”
Reed said the state’s new immigration law, believed to be the toughest in the country, has had two results that hurt industries that depend on Hispanic workers — many legal workers have left Alabama due to the legislation, and the language in the law is so unclear that it has left many business owners “confused and unsure” of how to comply.
“Our industry, along with poultry and farming, struggle to fill positions for labor intensive jobs that need to be performed,” Reed said. “While our association will continue to focus on workforce voids and look for ways to fill construction craft positions, we will be meeting with Alabama Employers for Immigration Reform in Montgomery to collectively join group efforts to deal with this issue the Legislature has dealt our industries.”
Reed said if a continued shortage of workers remains prevalent in agriculture and construction, Alabama lawmakers that passed the law need to stand ready to help employers find workers.
“In Alabama we must continue to roof projects, plant landscaping and harvest crops,” Reed said. “Today the question is, ‘Who is left to do that?’”
Reed said the employers reform group has heard from several lawmakers who originally supported the immigration law, but since have expressed concern about “some of the unintended consequences of the bill.”
“Contrary to what was represented, there have not been a lot of Alabama workers lining up to get these jobs in poultry, farming and at our job sites,” Reed said. “We want state lawmakers to put more funding into educating and recruiting Alabamians to do these jobs, and to help us encourage more high school students to consider vocational training or two-year colleges.”