Trump's Immigration Changes Could Worsen Kentucky's Shortage of Entry- and Mid-Level Workers

Aug 3, 2017
Originally published on August 3, 2017 5:47 pm

President Trump’s proposal to cut legal immigration by half and consider English language and job skills has set off a controversy about whether the nation is changing the welcoming message of the Statue of Liberty. The proposed immigration rules could affect businesses in Kentucky that face a shortage of entry- and mid-level workers.

When you talk to business owners in Kentucky, many say they have positions that are not filled because they can’t find enough people with the right skills, or willing to do the job. Some don’t arrive at work on time and some can’t pass the drug test.

Heath Ray says those issues generally don’t show up with refugees. Ray is the refugee program coordinator for Community Action of Southern Kentucky and says immigrants have a diversity of work and English language skills.

“We are always able to find them employment here in south central Kentucky. Employers have been very receptive to working with us because they admire their work ethic and they always increase retention rates, just because they are so grateful to have the opportunity to provide for their family.”

Ray says the businesses he works with are enthusiastic about hiring refugees with whatever skills they have. 

“In this area, I have heard partners from the workforce board talk about there being anywhere from 600 to 700 open positions. And when I meet with employers they’re just looking for someone who can pass a drug screen and has a clear background.”   

Ray says those issues are almost never a problem for the refugee clients he has assisted because they are required to go through extreme vetting before they are approved to come to the U.S. 

Those who support President Trump’s immigration changes say the country already has an adequate pool of workers and the immigrants are taking jobs from Americans.

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