Business wants immigration reform. Why? Because they can't find enough workers

July 11, 2014: 5:53 AM ET
Immigration facts to know in 75 seconds
WASHINGTON (CNNMoney)

As the nation deals with an immigration crisis at its borders, businesses are stepping up their calls for reform.

The Obama administration is desperately trying to deal with the influx of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children crossing into the United States.

The crisis may deflect Congress' attention away from doing anything meaningful over the nation's immigration laws, said Thomas Donohue, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, which represents the largest U.S. businesses. But the group still renewed its push for immigration reform.

Related: Immigration bill could cut deficits by $175 billion

That's because U.S. businesses have a lot at stake:

* Hotels and restaurants can't find enough employees, said Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson in a Washington Post editorial last August. "At large hotels at ski resorts such as Aspen or southwest Florida beaches with small local populations, we struggle to find sufficient numbers of people willing to take labor-intensive jobs during peak season," he wrote. "We must deal fairly with the 11 million people in this country who lack legal status. They are not leaving, and we must allow them to become taxpaying participants."

* Two-third of construction companies have reported labor shortages, according to a survey by the Associated General Contractors of America, a group for builders that's also pushing for immigration reforms. The shortages are hurting the nation's housing recovery, according to a study by the National Association of Homebuilders.

* The tech industry faces a backlog of working visas for high skilled workers. The long wait for green cards for graduates from the nation's top tech universities means the U.S. is losing bright potential citizens to other countries. Microsoft founder Bill Gates and other CEOs like Yahoo's Marissa Mayer, and Facebook's Mark Zuckerburg have all pressed Washington leaders for an immigration overhaul.

* Farmers can't find enough pickers for ripe crops. California farmers are willing to pay wages of $30 an hour and still can't find workers, said Tom Nassif, CEO of the Western Growers Association, a trade group of California and Arizona farmers. California's farmers have 25% fewer workers than they need to harvest produce, which means crops have been rotting in the fields, he said.

Related: Zuckerburg's push on immigration

Bill Gates: U.S. is throwing talent away

AT&T (T, Tech30)CEO Randall Stephenson was in Washington last month to speak with economists, where he stressed immigration is a "first-rate crisis that needs to be dealt with."

Business proponents point to a 2013 study that say immigration reforms could add 123,000 new jobs to the economy and hike Gross Domestic Product by $10 billion in its first year, according to a Regional Economic Models report funded by the Ford Foundation.

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