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Valley CEO: Gang of 8 immigration bill can work

A Valley construction CEO said a proposed immigration bill from a coalition of senators may not satisfy everyone, but could work is passed into law.

“In light of this new bill that’s being proposed, I think we’re all not going to like everything about this bill, but I think they did a pretty good job in trying to craft a bill that will work for everybody long-term,” said Sundt Construction CEO Dave Crawford in a Tuesday interview with News/Talk 92.3 KTAR’s Bruce St. James.

Crawford, who is involved with the Real Arizona Coalition, said the “broad-based” group backs the efforts of the Gang of Eight, which includes Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake.

Immigration is an important issue in the construction sector, Crawford said, because many companies look to hire immigrants.

“We need skilled labor and, in terms of the immigration bill, what they call unskilled labor, but when we talk about carpenters, cement finishers, electricians, mechanical people, we call that skilled labor, but we also need the STEMs — science, technology, mathematics — we need that side in construction also.”

Crawford said that, once SB 1070 was passed in Arizona, the state lost about 129,000 skilled laborers, of which only 10 to 12 percent are expected to return.

“SB 1070, as you know, had lots of negative consequences in relation to the economy in general.”

Many immigrants working construction have also left the state because of a lack of jobs, Crawford said, adding that the Valley’s construction firms have seen four years of a down economy and are still 18 to 24 months away from a “normal economy.”

While some claim that the construction industry seeks to hire illegal immigrants to pay them next to nothing, Crawford said a vast majority of contractors play by the rules.

According to Crawford, his company was the first in the construction sector in the United States to begin using E-Verify.