Congressman John Culberson Discusses Workforce, Training, and Immigration at Houston Construction Site

Associated Builders and Contractors Endorses Culberson

Members of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) gathered to endorse Republican Representative John Culberson (TX-7) at a Burton construction site in Houston on Friday, July 7. The event provided a great opportunity to ask the congressman some questions about immigration policy as it relates to our nation's workforce needs.

On behalf of ABC, Dale Kornegay, 2018 ABC PAC Chairman, gave the official endorsement and handed Congressman Culberson a check to contribute to his campaign for reelection to the TX CD-07 seat, which will be contested by Democrat Lizzie Fletcher in November. He also thanked Culberson for helping pass legislation that has benefited the construction industry and overall economy in Houston, like the Fair and Open Compensation Act and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  

It is my privilege on behalf of the more than 21,000 ABC members nationally, to support and endorse Congressman John Culberson in his reelection campaign. Congressman is a dedicated ally and supporter of ABC and the merit shop. Congressman is and has been dedicated and an advocate for workforce education and career advancement of people in the construction industry…Congressman has sponsored and co-sponsored ABC priority legislation in the House like the Fair and Open Compensation Act. Congressman has advocated for tax reform for our industry and our employees."

Congressman John Culberson thanked ABC and its members for the vital role they play in the growing Houston and Texas economy and also talked about the free market principles he advocates for as a Republican representative. Culberson said:

“The Houston economy is thundering, growing and thriving, and ABC is an important part of that. The work that you do and your members do is essential to the continued prosperity of Houston and Texas and the country. You recognize that by taking good care of your employees in an environment where you’re going to provide them with good benefits, good pay, and a good work environment, you don’t really need labor unions. We do very well in a free market environment simply taking care of your people.

"It’s a real privilege for me to help you on your legislative program to support the community college system, our public education system, our higher education system, so we can have more young people coming into work and being trained in the skills that they need in the growing Houston economy.

"...You can continue to count on me to keep my word to make sure we have a strong free market environment here in Houston with low taxes, light regulatory taxes, and unleash business owners like you to do what you do best."

Dale Kornegay brought up the concerns that he and contractors nationwide have about finding enough workers to meet the construction industry’s needs, explaining:

It’s not a secret that we lack qualified employees in the construction business, and the congressman has taken it on as a member of the House and as a personal mission to help educate young people to join our workforce and to help encourage people to join what is actually a very good career. See this crane behind me? The operator running that crane probably makes six figures. Think about that, the guy sitting in that seat every day running that crane is probably earning a six-figure salary, and we need more of them. We are desperate for more people to work on construction sites like this all over the country."

Apropos to the construction labor supply shortage that Kornegay mentioned, is ABC’s National Immigration Position, which states: 

As the economy improves, the demand for workers, primarily for small businesses, grows. Elimination of an immigrant workforce is not an option - construction, like many U.S. industries, would come to a halt without it. Even more significantly, construction will be limited in growth without an increase in the number of available legal workers. In past booming economies, there has been a shortage of specialized and educated workers in the U.S. A seamless pathway to legal status for those able to fill jobs otherwise left open by U.S. citizens will help construction companies to continue to prosper.

In addition to improving and increasing legal pathways for migrants to enter the American workforce like H-2B visas, the ABC PAC’s immigration position advocates for increased border security and a guest worker program to provide unauthorized immigrants currently working in the US with conditional legal status.

After hearing Kornegay’s statement and receiving ABC’s endorsement, I asked Congressman Culberson about the potential 25-40% reduction in legal immigration that would have resulted from the immigration bill he co-sponsored, the Securing America’s Future Act, and how that could affect the labor shortages that American construction companies are dealing with, Culberson said he “expected that bill to be modified as it went on through the process. But we are all focused, the Republican Congress, on first of all securing the border and then making sure people can come here legally to work. But there are plenty, as we all heard today, that there are plenty of people applying for jobs to work. We’ve got a strong and committed workforce in Houston Texas.”  

However, Congressman Culberson’s statement that he heard there are plenty of people applying for jobs to work was notably incongruent with statements Kornegay made just moments before about lacking qualified employees and being desperate for more people to work on construction sites all over the country.  ​

Rep. Culberson also said that once the border is secured and the law is being enforced,

"It’s very easy I think to find a way to create a guest worker program for people to come here legally to work, but it all begins with law enforcement, and it begins with making sure the border is secure so people are coming here only through the ports of entry.

"...People that have come to the United States illegally, you want to make sure they head home check back go home and come back into the country legally if they want to work. We got to know who you are, where you’re coming to work, how long you’re going to be here, where you’re going to go.”

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