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Sen. Durbin Blames Trump Immigration Policies for U.S. Labor Shortage

US Border Patrol agents direct migrants to a bus for processing after they illegally crossed the US-Mexico border in Yuma, Arizona, early in the morning of July 11, 2022. (Photo by ALLISON DINNER/AFP via Getty Images)

( – In a speech on the Senate floor Monday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the U.S. immigration system is “broken” and needs to be fixed, for the sake of the immigrants themselves as well as for the U.S. economy.

He said Trump’s effort to reduce illegal immigration contributed to the nation’s current labor shortage:

“We have seen over the past four years, under the previous president, a complete downturn in the immigrants coming into this country to work, and that’s why there are so many shortages in our current workforce. We can do better, and we should do better.”

Durbin also noted that the nation’s birthrate is not keeping up with the demand for labor.

“We are a nation desperate for workers, particularly young, able-bodied people…but we can’t put them (asylum-seekers) to work” he said. “Even though American employers should be willing to sponsor them, there are few viable legal immigration pathways to bring them to America, and as a result, the arduous journey to the Mexican-American border is the only option they have.

“I’ll be the first to agree with my colleagues on the other side in saying we need an orderly process at the border, and we do not have it today.”

Durbin blamed political gridlock in Washington for the failure to pass “anything controversial.”

Earlier in his speech, the senator spoke about two Venezuelan men he met at a Chicago Salvation Army shelter. He said both risked their lives to cross the southwest border illegally, then were bussed to Chicago from Texas shortly after arrival.

Durbin bemoaned the fact that under federal law, those asylum seekers are not allowed to work for pay until their asylum request is approved.

“They’re at least prohibited for the first six months from taking any kind of legal employment in the United States. How did that happen?” Durbin asked.

 “We let them in the country and yet we wouldn’t even allow them to work to feed their families. Well, you won’t be surprised to know, that was a decision by the Trump administration. This administration, under President Biden, is trying to change it.”

“But in the meantime, they’re faced with a horrible dilemma…when they’re trying to find some way to feed their families but if they take a job and are paid for it, in any way, they risk deportation. This is yet another example of a broken immigration system. The system has failed not just these families but our nation’s economy as well.”

Durbin noted that there are ten million unfilled jobs in this country, and five million unemployed Americans. Businesses are desperate for workers, he said. “And yet we don’t have a system that allows for these people to come to this country and to legally work. It doesn’t make any sense.”

‘We cannot accept everyone in the world’

While Durbin called for an “orderly” immigration process, he also said there are limits.

We need an “orderly” immigration process; we need to make sure that no dangerous person is going to come into this process — do our level best to keep them out.

“And we need to accept one reality, and that is, we cannot accept everyone in the world who wants to come to America tomorrow. The numbers are overwhelming. We have to have an orderly process and bring those people in who help us grow as a nation.”

Durbin accused Texas Gov. Greg Abbott of “exploiting a humanitarian challenge to score political points.” He complained that Abbott recently started sending busloads of illegal immigrants to Chicago, with no advance notice — not even a text message, he said. “Just plain meanness,” Durbin said.