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Fewer immigrants in US, worker shortage driving prices up

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Posted at 9:17 PM, May 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-13 21:17:30-04

A crisis in the workforce: Too few workers, too many open positions and fragile supply chains left behind. 

"Health care workers, worn out and burnt out. People who work in factories have worn out the people working at grocery stores. I want out, but they didn't take a break," said Immigration Policy Analyst Ashish Prashar. "Immigration would help supply shortages. Immigration would help solve inflation."

The evidence is in the numbers. 

"There are two job openings for every person looking for a job locally," CareerSource's Tom Veenstra said.

And that's just south Florida. 

The trend holds nationally. The workforce is so hungry for workers, one San Diego woman was job-hunting for almost no time at all. 

"It took me a day," Jazmine Monk said. 

And in Cincinnati, barbecue joint-manager Jeff Keate wonders if his suppliers will be able to keep up. 

"You never know what's going to either be missing on the order or what’s going to be changed on the order," he said. "That means I had to go out there and find those products that we need to come up with."

Supply chains are broken down without enough hands, namely immigrant workers, to keep them moving. 

The Census Bureau released new data showing the pandemic worsened a years-old trend, now resulting in the lowest immigration rate in decades. 

"President Biden hasn't exactly rushed to open the doors to let more immigrants into the country," Prashar said.

Prashar is an activist and former political adviser with years of experience handling immigration issues. 

"We need to diversify, not — we're always looking for this exceptional alien and stuff but like we're talking about things that are grinding to a halt because we can't get enough people to pick in the farms, we can't get enough people in meat factories. We can't get enough of anything else. Create more visas now," Prashar said.

One way to get more immigrant workers into the country would be by easing Title 42 restrictions put in place under former President Trump. 

The measure turned asylum-seekers to Mexico ostensibly to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

The Biden administration promised to end the practice, but it expanded its use earlier this month well after declaring COVID-19 an 'endemic.'

Prashar now sees a connection between lower immigration and the kind of supply chain fragility that's forcing parents to search high and low for baby formula. 

"Now I'm down to one," stay-at-home mom  Sam Wiegele said. "And so I feel like with every can I open, that fear is just building and building."

"Immigration should be talked about," Prashar said. "First and foremost is, economics in economic and demographic terms, because it's huge. It's a hugely important engine of growth, a hugely important engine of innovation in this country."

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