Congressional Delegation: Improvement Needed in Legal Immigration
By Fred Knapp , Reporter/Producer Nebraska Public Media
Aug. 25, 2022, 4 p.m. ·
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While many voters are focused on people illegally crossing the southern border, members of Nebraska’s congressional delegation say more needs to be done to boost legal immigration.
At a chamber of commerce-sponsored forum, Bryan Slone, president of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry said there are between 52,000 and 80,000 unfilled jobs in Nebraska. He asked members of the delegation if there were changes in the immigration system that could be made to help fill those jobs.
Sen. Ben Sasse said that would require either an overall agreement in Congress, or better presidential leadership.
“We have two administrations in a row that haven't in any serious way wanted to fix any of this. They wanted to maintain an issue that they could use for politics rather than solving policy issues in front of the American people,” Sasse said.
Omaha-area Rep. Don Bacon said businesses could do a better job of talking about their need for workers.
“Probably the number one issue besides inflation right now is the southern border, for our constituents, and that's what they're focused on. If they knew your needs a little better and heard more about it, I think that would help us do more. So we gotta persuade our own citizens that this is needed,” Bacon said
Rep. Adrian Smith, from the largely rural Third District, said the current immigration system is hurting agriculture.
“By speaking to some agriculture operators who have a seasonal needs -- also year round needs -- the rigidity with some of the legal immigration is very bureaucratic and I think we need to address that,” Smith said.
Eastern Nebraska Rep. Mike Flood said it looks like there’s some improvement, citing figures on the backlog of visa applications.
“In January of this year 439,000, in August it was 388,000… let's process the applications that are going through the system legally,” Flood said.
Sen. Deb Fischer sent her regrets for not attending Thursday’s gathering, saying there had been a death in her family.
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