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Architects Weigh in on Immigration

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

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Immigration policies aimed at deportation and closing the nation's doors can impact the design and building industry, U.S. architects say.

The American Institute of Architects issued a statement Monday (Feb. 20) calling for “fair and impartial immigration policies.” The AIA announced seven principles outlining where the organization stands on the hot-button issue.

U.S. Immigration
© iStock.com / VIPDesignUSA

AIA voiced its concern over policies that restrict immigration from specific countries or regions based on overly broad factors, including religion.

The statement comes as President Donald J. Trump is expected to rework a controversial travel restriction executive order, and just a day before his administration announced plans to ramp up deportation of undocumented immigrants.

A Design, Construction Issue

AIA says the following statistics support its concern about the impact any newly imposed immigration or travel restrictions will have on the broader design and construction industry.

  • Immigrant labor accounts for 23 percent of the total construction workforce in the U.S. (Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, American Community Survey.)
  • In 2015, billings by U.S. architectural firms for international projects totaled $1.6 billion. Projects in Middle East countries accounted for 18 percent of those billings. (Source: AIA Firm Survey Report, 2015.)
  • Half of U.S. large architectural firms have offices in the Middle East/North Africa, which is the largest reported share of international offices. (Source: AIA Firm Survey, 2015.)
  • In the 2014-2015 school year, 4,283 architecture students at accredited programs were nonresident aliens. This represents 18 percent of the total—up from 6 percent in 2009. (Source: National Architectural Accrediting Board annual report.)
  • In 2015, 889 of the 6,348 total architecture degrees (14 percent) were awarded to nonresident aliens. (Source: NAAB annual report.)
  • The AIA has 1,538 members licensed outside U.S. (887 International; 651 within U.S.)

AIA Statement

Specifically, AIA voiced its concern over policies that restrict immigration from specific countries or regions based on overly broad factors, including religion.

“Beyond the essential considerations of fairness and equity, restrictions targeting specific areas of the world can have profoundly negative business impacts,” said AIA President Thomas Vonier, FAIA. 

© iStock.com / davidmariuz

Immigrant labor accounts for 23 percent of the total construction workforce in the U.S., according to the AIA, citing a U.S. Department of Commerce, American Community Survey.

“Professional service exports are a key contributor to AIA member firms and their earnings. In fact, the entire international building development, design and construction sector relies heavily on reciprocal treatment and on the fair and ethical ability to travel, reside and work across national boundaries.”

In late January, Trump signed an executive order that temporarily restricted travel from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya. However, the order was legally challenged as many travelers, including visa and green-card holders, around the country and abroad were prevented from boarding planes and denied entry. Courts granted a nationwide stay on the executive order.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Feb. 9 to continue blocking enforcement of the measure.

Meanwhile, Trump is expected to release a revised executive order regarding the same travel restrictions by week’s end, reports relate.

New Immigration Guidelines

In response to Trump’s call for increased border security and stricter enforcement of immigration regulations, the Department of Homeland Security unveiled a set of documents that provide further direction and order a departmental hiring surge.

The department would expand the number of immigrants who are prioritized for removal. “All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to enforcement proceedings, up to and including removal from the United States,” officials indicate in a fact sheet.

Trump signing order
The White House via Facebook

President Donald J. Trump has signed several executive orders in the first month of his presidency.

“The guideline makes clear, however, that ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] should prioritize several categories of removable aliens who have committed crimes, beginning with those convicted of a criminal offense.”

The expedited removal process will also be expanded, according to the agency, to apply to unauthorized immigrants who have been in the country illegally for up to two years. The previous administration had limited those expedited deportations to those in the country for 14 days or less.

Officials have told reporters that the agency is not planning mass deportations as the policies will take time to implement.

In addition, DHS says it will immediately identify and allocate all sources of funding for the planning, design, construction and maintenance of a border wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico.


Tagged categories: American Institute of Architects (AIA); Architecture; Associations; Construction; Enforcement; Government; Workers

Comment from John McCormac, (2/22/2017, 9:43 AM)

AIA maintains its irrelevance. Enforcing the law is now a bad thing, according to them. No issues with legal immigration, but illegal immigration is what is being enforced. Nothing relates to religion, either. AIA exposes its left-leaning bias, as usual.

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