President Obama’s executive actions on immigration are set to go into effect this Wednesday. Among other provisions, the actions will grant permission for illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. five years or more, and whose children are U.S. citizens or legal residents, to remain here for up to three years and work legally, pending a background check.
Jeff Salter, the founder of a San Antonio, Texas-based small business is looking forward to the impact the policy changes will have on his operations.
Outside of a recent Fortune article about the importance of immigrant entrepreneurs to the U.S. economy, there’s been little discussion about how immigration policy changes could affect small business.
Salter’s 23-year-old company, Caring Senior Service, provides non-medical homecare to enable elderly clients to avoid moving to nursing homes or assisted living communities. With 55 locations in 20 states, 1,600 clients, and 1,700 employees, Salter is constantly seeking new hires in what he says is a severely understaffed industry. Because his service provides one-to-one care to clients for much of the day, Salter says, “when a new client comes on board, we need to hire.”
The average age of a Caring Senior Service client is 83. And as the aging population swells, Salter says, “the biggest challenge is going to be finding enough caregivers to enable older people to stay at home. The number available has always been thin, but they’re becoming more and more scarce.”
Salter says that while past immigrant labor policies have been aimed at skilled laborers with professional degrees and science and technology backgrounds, the new program will let more people into the American job market at lower wages. “Our pay is between $9 and $15 per hour in the markets we serve,” Salter says. “Allowing those individuals who are currently in America the opportunity to work, to be employed and to pay taxes, is a key change. There is a large population of workers who have had to work under the table and get paid cash. They will not have to go underground any more.”
As for language barriers, Salter says those can be overcome: “Language can be a challenge. That’s something we will have to innovate on within our company.”
Salter, who says he’s no stranger to Washington or his congressman, hasn’t backed all of President Obama’s policies. But he believes true immigration reform will be “a good thing for our industry,” and wants to voice that opinion.
“Our mission is to help people, and we’re going to get behind anything that will help us help our customers,” Salter says. He acknowledges that his position “is probably contrary to many business owners and Republicans,” but says
as a CEO with many locations I’m representing lots of people. When it comes to the needs of business, this is a policy that can greatly help our business as well as seniors in America.”
As for the broader economic impacts of the executive action, the Fortune article points out that a “vibrant immigrant community” and a “working immigration system” are crucial: “Today, immigrants are more likely than native-born Americans to be entrepreneurs, according to data from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Additionally, in Silicon Valley, 44% of startups have at least one immigrant founder. And, 40% of all Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants or children of immigrants.”