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Mass. business groups push feds to speed up work permits for migrants

By Greg Ryan – Senior Reporter, Boston Business Journal

Many of the state’s business groups urged the Biden administration Monday to allot more federal funding to address the migrant crisis and to speed up work authorizations for migrants.

Many of the state’s business groups urged the Biden administration Monday to allot more federal funding to address the migrant crisis and to speed up work authorizations for migrants.

Statewide organizations such as the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, regional groups like the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and trade associations such as MassBio signed the joint letter to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The 21 organizations together include more than 10,000 employers and 1 million employees, the letter said.

In seeking faster work permits, the groups pointed to the Bay State’s unemployment rate, which stood at 2.6% as of August. With the exception of the previous month, that’s the lowest it’s ever been according to state records that date back to the mid-1970s.

Employers “continue to look for workers and cite the inability to find talent to fill open jobs as a top concern for economic growth and competitiveness,” the organizations said.

A recent Business Roundtable survey found that three-quarters of respondents anticipate difficulty in hiring employees over the next year. A similar percentage reported unfilled job openings in a separate Associated Industries of Massachusetts survey.

The groups called not just for faster work authorizations, but for provisional permits for migrants while they await full approvals. They called for “immediate action,” calling the crisis “both economic and humanitarian.”

Gov. Maura Healey declared a state of emergency last month in regard to the migrant crisis, making some of the same demands of the Biden administration as the employer groups did this week. The state’s congressional representatives, all Democrats, and Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell have made similar calls.

Biden administration officials have previously said they need Congress to act to change federal law to enable asylum seekers to begin working without the current months-long waiting period.

Leaders from the following organizations signed the letter Monday:

  • Amplify LatinX
  • Asian Business Empowerment Council
  • Associated Industries of Massachusetts
  • 1Berkshire
  • Black Economic Council of Massachusetts
  • Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce
  • Charles River Regional Chamber
  • Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce
  • MassBio
  • Massachusetts Business Roundtable
  • Massachusetts Competitive Partnership
  • Massachusetts High Technology Council
  • Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce
  • Massachusetts Society of CPAs
  • Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation
  • Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council
  • MassEcon
  • NAIOP Massachusetts
  • One SouthCoast Chamber
  • Retailers Association of Massachusetts
  • Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce