This article was originally published in The New York Times on February 2, 2023.
Across the globe, 32.5 million refugees are seeking safety, many of them adults in search of work. At the same time, severe labor shortages in the United States and many other high-income countries have left businesses clamoring for workers.
The United States can help address both problems (and more) through bipartisan immigration reform — and states can be part of new solutions with innovative ideas that could act as the foundation for immigration federalism.
The three of us have connections to Iowa, where the governor, Kim Reynolds, a Republican, and the state’s Department of Health and Human Services recently announced a program that supports refugees from around the world, with a focus on Afghan people in particular. That includes providing grants to organizations that enhance “community integration, English proficiency, digital literacy, banking and financial planning, transportation, health and wellness, services for older refugees and youth supports.”
Iowa alone has over 75,000 job openings. That may seem a minute number compared with the 11 million jobs open nationally. But these shortages are depleting the state’s ability to meet growing manufacturing and service demands. Businesses are begging for workers at local economic development meetings. Employers are struggling particularly with shortages in key midskill industries like health care, information and technology and tourism and hospitality.