The controversial immigration law SB 1070 has apparently affected Arizona’s construction industry since the bill was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer in 2010.
Dan Withers, president of D.L. Withers Construction, said the bill negatively impacted the overall labor force and “tourism tax dollars” because of the declining construction jobs in the Valley.
“We already had a 50 percent reduction in labor in this state, so we were already hurting,” Withers told News/Talk 92.3 KTAR’s Bruce St. James Show. “When all those tax revenues dropped and capital improvements started dropping, we lost a lot of work.”
Withers added that fear was the likely cause for many immigrants leaving the business regardless if they were living in the U.S. legally or illegally. As a result, Withers’ noted the trade suffered following the departure of a high percentage of the workforce.
“The feeling is this is a little bit of a hostile place to work,” Withers said after speaking with the Embassy of Mexico in Washington, D.C.
Withers explained there will be a number of challenges ahead for the construction industry, and the presence of SB 1070 does not help remedy the situation. Essentially, he said the local business community has demanded significant immigration reform.
Withers noted the Gang of Eight bill may not “solve all of the problems, but we have to start somewhere.”
“Arizona needs labor and one of the major sources is from beyond our borders. There’s no question about that, especially in my industry,” Withers said. “So if a system is put in place that, first of all, illegals that are here can get legalized…but also a way to then expedite work visas to come and find a path to citizenship.”
Withers said, however, he found there was a sense of uniformity concerning immigration reform after speaking with Sen. John McCain, Sen. Jeff Flake and a number of House members.
“They are fairly united on putting something through,” Withers said. “I think it’s very likely we might see a change.”
Withers explained that, while the nation should support immigration reform, there must be a clear, “streamlined” path to citizenship considering “there’s only 15,000 construction visas in the bill per year for the entire country.”