Provide legal pathway for migrants to work in the U.S.


By Barb Arland-Fye

Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported that companies of every size and industry in the U.S. face unprecedented challenges trying to fill 9.8 million open jobs. Even if every unemployed person were employed, “we would still have around 4 million open jobs” ( The Chamber cites various reasons, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic: early retirements and less immigration, boosted unemployment benefits, stimulus payments and child tax credits that “padded the finances of some previously employed workers … or in some cases people have adjusted to a single household lifestyle” (

We have migrants at our U.S. border with Mexico, eager to fill jobs within their skill sets. Wouldn’t it make sense to provide them with a legal pathway to work in the U.S., a proposal our nation’s bishops have been advocating for years! We have lost sight of human potential and have ignored God’s call to hear the cry of the poor by focusing solely on border security without addressing immigration reform. This does not involve an either-or solution; it involves a both-and solution. We can secure our borders and craft immigration reform that serves the best interests of our country and migrants seeking a future for their families.

During a campaign stop in Davenport on Aug. 10, former Vice President Mike Pence, a Republican presidential candidate, talked about border security but also acknowledged the need to “fix the broken immigration system” (Quad-City Times, Aug. 11, 2023). However, he suggested a merit-based immigration system, which could leave many migrants without the opportunity to build on and demonstrate their work skills. Our faith calls us to welcome the stranger. We do so by creating a legal pathway for migrants to work in this country, which means increasing available work visas for low-skilled workers who are willing to start in labor-intensive jobs.


On Aug. 2, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced deployment of 109 Iowa National Guard soldiers (Aug. 2-Sept. 1) to help Texas secure the U.S. southern border following the end of Title 42 (which allows U.S. authorities to expel migrants at the border). It is the Guard’s third deployment to the U.S./Mexico border since 2020. In addition, the Iowa Department of Public Safety will deploy Iowa State Patrol officers from Aug. 31-Oct. 2 to “support Texas State Troopers with criminal interdiction, crime prevention, traffic enforcement, and law enforcement assistance.”

The costs, she noted, “will be covered by federal funding allocated to Iowa from the American Rescue Plan.” Border security is necessary, but what would happen if Gov. Reynolds channeled resources toward welcoming migrants willing and able to fill some of those job vacancies — on farms, in meatpacking plants, hotel and hospital housekeeping, child care, landscaping and construction?

Twenty years ago, U.S. and Mexican Catholic bishops issued the pastoral document, “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.” They called for a “globalization of solidarity” and an overhaul of the U.S. immigration system. The pastoral letter outlined criteria for the reform of the U.S. immigration system that included:

  • A broad based legalization (permanent residency) of the undocumented of all nationalities.  
  • Reform of our family-based immigration system to allow family members to reunite with loved ones in the United States.  
  • Reform of the employment-based immigration system to provide legal pathways for migrants to come and work in a safe, humane, and orderly manner.  
  • Abandonment of the border “blockade” enforcement strategy.  
  • Restoration of due process protections for immigrants.

The criteria remain relevant today. If Congress would take a bipartisan approach (as with the Artificial Intelligence issue) to address even one aspect of immigration — work opportunities — we would benefit as sisters and brothers of the same God. From a moral perspective, undocumented migrants without a legal pathway to work face exploitation for fear of deportation. No one deserves to live in fear. But many migrants fleeing violence, poverty and corruption see no other options.

We have an immediate challenge with a solution in front of us — provide a legal pathway for migrants to come and work in a safe, humane and orderly manner. The first step requires advocating for a sufficient number of permanent work visas for migrants (H-2A agricultural and H-2B non-agricultural). At present, the U.S. limits work visas for low-skilled jobs outside of agriculture, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research (Oct. 2022 report).

Congress is in recess in August. Contact U.S. Senators Charles Grassley ( and Joni Ernst ( and your representatives (go to and ask them to promote legislation that raises the number of work visas for migrants with limited work skills while providing more flexibility for employers and ensuring critical protections for workers.

Visit the Justice for Immigrants website ( to learn more about the immigration issue and how we can alleviate a worker shortage while giving hope to migrants looking for work.

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor


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