Immigration reform needs to balance national security issues with access to qualified employees to offset an expected labor shortage in the years ahead, small-business owners and advocates told a congressional hearing on Thursday.

Employers from a variety of sectors urged lawmakers to focus immigration reform efforts on matching foreign workers with businesses that require skilled workers.

They also described current obstacles to hiring immigrant workers, including a short supply of work visas and liability issues related to verifying an employee's legal status.

"As we consider immigration reform, entrepreneurs must have a seat at the table to ensure they can innovate and expand," Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, said in a statement.

According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, as many as 18.9 million new jobs will be created by 2014, with only 3 million Americans to fill them.

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Published on: May 11, 2007