Some Latino leaders, business owners say immigration reform is local economic issue

by: Jim Bradley Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Workers who are undocumented are now the focus of a growing conversation about immigration reform.

Armando Bellmas said a lot is on the line for his clients at the Latin American Coalition.

“Making sure that friends and families can stay in this country, can find a pathway to citizenship, can contribute more to our economy,” Bellmas said.

And it’s those economic reasons that Charlotte homebuilder Alan Banks said the rest of Charlotte needs to be aware of. 

“We need those workers, this industry needs those workers,” Banks said. “This economy needs those workers.”

Banks, who also heads Charlotte's Home Builders Association, said many of the Latino construction workers who came here during Charlotte's boom have now left. 

He warns that unless leaders can find a legal way to get them back, his business and others will suffer.

“If building continues on the trajectory it’s growing right now, we are going to have a problem,” Banks said. “We are going to have a labor shortage.”

As issues like a temporary worker program are discussed in Washington, Latino advocates point out undocumented workers paid $300 million in North Carolina taxes in 2010 and 2011.

Bellmas said that's a reason for everyone to care.

“We want to make sure there's a way for people to come or to stay and make sure that they can continue to contribute legally,” Bellmas said.