Trump’s infrastructure plans clash with his immigration agenda

If President-elect Donald Trump moves forward with plans to rebuild the country’s aging roads, bridges, airports, and transit systems, they may collide with another of his stated agenda items — curbing immigration.

With the US unemployment rate at 4.9 percent, many construction firms across the country are having trouble finding enough workers. In Massachusetts, the labor market is even tighter, with the jobless rate about as low as it gets, at 3.6 percent.

“There would be severe labor shortages in dozens of industries if he were to go on a mass deportation spree,’’ Mark Erlich, executive secretary-treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, said of Trump.

Trump has said his administration will “prioritize the jobs, wages and security of the American people” and allow immigrants into the country based on their “likelihood of success.”

Over the weekend, he said he would seek to deport up to 3 million undocumented immigrants with criminal records. Later, he said, the administration would look harder at millions of other unauthorized foreign workers who are the country. If that resulted in huge numbers of deportations, the impact would be felt at restaurants and hotels in the Boston area, as well as by families who hire immigrants to care for their homes and children.

In construction, too — particularly in residential housing and apartment projects — Massachusetts builders rely on thousands of immigrant workers, many of whom are undocumented. While such workers made up 5 percent of the total US workforce in 2014, they represented 13 percent of the construction industry, according to the Pew Research Center in Washington. That was second only to agriculture, at 17 percent.

John M. Pourbaix Jr., executive director of Construction Industries of Massachusetts in Norwood, said infrastructure spending of any scale would be welcomed by the 60,000 to 85,000 people in Massachusetts who work on highways, bridges, transit systems, and other related jobs.

By Beth Healy for BOSTON GLOBE
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