Our View: Immigration Reform an Economic Imperative for Greater Mankato

Workforce continues to be one of the top concerns for our members. We consistently hear about how employers are struggling to find and retain an adequate and qualified workforce. There is a number of factors that contribute to the current workforce challenges. One of the key pillars of our work at Greater Mankato Growth is talent growth, recruitment, and retention. We partner closely with our area schools, colleges, and universities to ensure they understand the needs of the business community and are working to address those needs a the “speed of business.” Additionally, immigration is a consistent point of frustration for many area employers. Our current immigration system is broken and changes need to be made so that employers can rely on a modern, effective, and efficient immigration system all while keeping our nation’s borders secure. We hope that lawmakers will work together to make the necessary changes that are long overdue.

The following op-ed was published on August 26, 2023 in the Mankato Free Press.

Immigration Reform is an Economic Imperative for Greater Mankato

For decades, political leaders in both parties have claimed that immigration reform was a top legislative priority, yet none have succeeded in delivering lasting solutions to fix our broken immigration system. Despite this track record, broad support for reform has remained consistent among various interest groups. The 118th Congress must secure our borders and modernize our legal immigration system to meet the needs of our economy.

Companies in Greater Mankato and throughout southern Minnesota are struggling to find, hire, and retain the workers they need in order to compete globally. Many businesses tell us they cannot find workers to fill their job openings, which makes it difficult to meet the needs of their clients and customers. Bringing our legal immigration system into the 21st century would help ameliorate these workforce issues, but a key problem for many businesses is the antiquated employment-based system and its arbitrary eligibility requirements, and ridiculously low, decades-old visa quotas. It should come as no surprise that companies across a host of industries struggle to meet their workforce needs.

In many cases, the antiquated legal immigration system and its severe limitations on employment-based migration are a key contributing factor to the current chaos on our southern border. Given the divided government in Washington, any legal immigration reforms that will help must go hand in hand with addressing critical border security issues. To address the current border crisis, Congress must increase resources—physical, human, and technology—along our borders, and at our ports of entry. Congress must also enact sensible reforms to our asylum laws and modernizing federal employment verification requirements.

Coupling enhanced border security measures with desperately needed updates to our legal immigration system is a politically popular course of action. According to a recent Fox News poll, overwhelming majorities of Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, agree that Congress should increase the number of border patrol agents on the southern border, increase the number of judges to process asylum cases more expeditiously, and make it easier to immigrate to the U.S.

Greater Mankato Growth, representing more than 900 businesses in Greater Mankato, encourages the 118th Congress to meet this crucial moment and listen to American voters to strengthen our borders and make the necessary updates to our legal immigration system which will drive economic growth, boost job creation, and reestablish order on our southern border. Failing to address these issues will only make the crises we’re facing on the border and in our legal immigration worse. Three decades of legislative inaction is enough. Congress cannot afford to ignore these issues any longer.

Andy Wilke
Executive Vice President
Greater Mankato Growth