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Former Bush Official Says U.S. Needs One Million More Immigrants to Fill Labor Force


Despite high unemployment, Carlos Gutierrez, former commerce secretary under former President George W. Bush, said America needs at least one million more immigrants every year to work on farm lands, as well as an increase in foreign construction workers.

The former Kellogg Co. executive delivered his keynote speech on immigration at the Ripon Society's 4th Annual Symposium on Leadership at Mount Vernon on March 7. His speech was published today on YouTube.

In it, he warned that some Republicans go too far when they seek a ban on immigration and don't realize the benefits of actually supporting a comprehensive bill to bring more immigrants into the country legally.

He also warned that businesses will fail to grow due to the lack of available workers, adding that opening the immigration channel would help the Republican Party garner more votes.

Gutierrez said Republicans need "to be a little more engaged in the topic beyond just how we feel about the 11 million undocumented, it is so much bigger than that and we've got to get over that at resolving the problem in a way -- in a Republican way."

He said the Senate bill's "quota of 112,000 agricultural workers" was not enough, reminding attendees that leaders in the agriculture industry say they need roughly  "700,000 to about 1 million" more workers per year. And it didn't end with agriculture. He criticized the Senate bill for only allowing 15,000 construction workers in the country every year, adding that "15,000 workers" are needed in Miami alone.

"Where are we going to get the rest? We are giving businesses a choice," Gutierrez said. "You hire illegally, you shut down, or you just don’t grow. It’s just not right. I think we can do better for our businesses. Being in favor of immigration -- legal immigration -- is good policy. It’s also good politics."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in the construction industry was 12.8 percent this February. Further, the National Association of Home Builders,  said immigrants currently in the construction industry came to the United States mainly during the "housing boom years, from 2000 to 2005, when labor shortages across construction trades were widespread."

The group noted that "immigrants that arrived from 2006 to 2011, when construction job vacancies became limited, account for about 245,000 construction workers, or around 11 percent of the construction labor force – a 57 percent decline compared to 2000-2005," the NAHB states.

But Gutierrez said Republicans lost the Hispanic vote and "we’re losing the immigrant vote, not because immigrants don’t like our policies... The problem is that they perceive that we don’t like them."

According to many Republicans, the Gang-of-Eight bill failed to address border security and would set a precedent, opening a gateway for more illegal immigration in the future. This past year, House members began to take a piecemeal approach to the legislation. The approach is still a concern for opponents of immigration reform who fear that passing any bill to the Senate at this point in time will lead to a comprehensive package after it leaves the House.

TheBlaze previously reported on the number of House bills already being considered and the concerns among many House members that proponents of comprehensive reform would sneak through legislation through closed-door conference in the Senate.

Follow Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) on Twitter.

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