Charleston business leaders want immigration reform

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Lowcountry business leaders are calling on Congress to reform immigration policies so they can hire more qualified workers and described the current system as a brewing crisis.

"Our inefficient visa programs are creating a situation where we are educating the workforce of competing nations," Bryan Derreberry told several business members of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.

The president and CEO of the business advocacy group wants Congress to reform immigration policies. He believes a path to citizenship for foreign workers will supply local employers with qualified people.

Right now he thinks there's barely enough supply to meet demand.

"There's still going to be an additional talent demand that can be filled through immigrants being able to stay here with a more effective visa program and go to work," said Derreberry.

"I'm just an expert on the available workforce, and it's inadequate," said Steven Mungo, the CEO of Mungo Homes.

He says restrictions of work visas should be based on business-related needs. Mungo believes allowing immigrants to legally work will help fill the void of experienced applicants.

"We just don't have enough high quality workers available to us any longer to take care of the current need and certainly will not have it going forward," said Mungo.

Rep. Mark Sanford said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon he agrees with the idea of allowing more work permits. But he says fixing visa requirements won't be effective unless the country's borders are secured first.

And he doesn't think that will happen any time soon.

For now, business leaders hope politicians will answer their call for immigration reform to keep the local workforce moving.

"We've got a crisis brewing with regard to filling those jobs," said Derreberry.

On the national level, the immigration crisis continued in Texas as more undocumented children cross the border. President Barack Obama requested $3.7 billion in relief funds, but Hose Republicans made it clear there will not be a quick vote on the emergency aid package.

"Congress just said no to fixing our broken immigration system in a way that strengthens our borders and our businesses," said Obama . "There is a coalition around immigration reform that is unprecedented. These guys still can't get their act together."

The president met with Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday, but the White House said a visit to the border was not on the agenda.

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