- The percentage of immigrant workers in the construction workforce is rising, according to an analysis of the most recent 2016 American Community Survey data by the National Association of Home Builders' Housing Economics. Immigrant workers comprise nearly 25% of the overall construction workforce and accounting for an average of 30% in the construction trades.
- The increase in the industry's share of immigrants is largely due to a lack of U.S.-born workers returning to construction after the Great Recession. The share of non-native construction workers varies across states with California (42%), Texas (41%), New York (37%), Nevada (37%) and Florida (35%) having the highest shares.
- The construction trades with the greatest share of immigrant workers are plasterers and stucco masons (54%); drywall installers, ceiling tile installers and tapers (49%); painters and paperhangers (48%); carpet, floor and tile installers and finishers (46%); roofers (45%) and brick masons, block masons, stonemasons and reinforcing iron and rebar workers (39%).
Immigration laws were at the center of a recent government shutdown. Though brief, the three-day shutdown resulted when Democrats refused to sign off on any continuing resolution that did not provide a safeguard for non-native people brought to the U.S. as children.
Children were able to stay in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program established by former President Barack Obama in 2012. But, in September, President Donald Trump moved to repeal DACA. Since then, pushback from the immigrant community and members of Congress has been significant.
An estimated 700,000 construction workers are living in the U.S. under the DACA program, with just over 10% presumed to work in the construction industry. Those workers, combined with workers in the U.S. under temporary protected status (TPS) — another program under fire from the Trump administration — and more than 100,000 U.S. construction workers could be in danger of deportation, a devastating possibility for an industry already stressed by persistent labor shortages,
California is trying to protect its immigrant worker population through the Immigrant Worker Protection Act. The new law took effect Jan. 1, and bars employers from giving voluntary consent to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents that try to enter private property or want to see confidential employer information. To avoid prosecution under the new law, employers must demand a warrant before federal agents gain entry to non-public areas and a subpoena before turning over employee records.
The new law reportedly inspired Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan to announce increased raids and other immigration enforcement action in California, according to CBS Sacramento. The move could jumpstart another round of legal wrangling between state and federal authorities.