Along this street are several Dalton, Georgia businesses serving the city’s large Hispanic population. Dalton is home to up to 4,000 DACA receivers, and many work in the carpet industry. Kevin D. Liles hiding caption for NPR

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Kevin D. Liles for NPR

Along this street are several Dalton, Georgia businesses serving the city’s large Hispanic population. Dalton is home to up to 4,000 DACA receivers, and many work in the carpet industry.

Kevin D. Liles for NPR

As the Senate tries to reach an agreement on immigration, it’s not just immigrants at stake. So do the companies they hire.

“We are suffering from a severe labor shortage here in Dalton – skilled labor,” said Ahmed Salama, CEO of Oriental Weavers USA, the US subsidiary of a huge Egyptian company. Salama recently showed me his factory in Dalton, Georgia, where Hulking machines weave colored yarn together.

Like Metro Atlanta to

Dalton calls itself the “carpet capital of the world”. Wall-to-wall carpets were invented here after World War II. Today Dalton is surrounded by large factories that manufacture most of the carpet sold in the United States

It’s a conservative corner in northwest Georgia where Donald Trump got more than 70 percent of the vote. But again, some employers are nervous that the Trump administration’s immigration policy will make it harder to find enough workers.

“Two years ago I wished I had this problem because you could have papered our office with the resumes,” said Layton Roberts, CEO of Employment Innovations Inc., a human resources company in nearby Rome, Ga. Roberts He’s trying To fill hundreds of vacancies.

US employers are struggling to match workers with open jobs

Business is booming in Dalton. The city has finally recovered from the great recession when it suffered some of the worst job losses in the country. Now employers have another problem here: too many vacancies and not enough applicants to fill them.

Roberts supports President Trump, who he thinks is good for business. Even so, Roberts is concerned about what the president’s immigration policy could mean for the local economy. He is particularly concerned about the future of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

DACA allows undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children to live and work here.

“What impact will this have on the labor force if these people are deported?” Asked Roberts. “It’s a legitimate question.”

Dalton, Georgia suffered some of the worst job losses in the country a decade ago. Now employers have another problem here: too many vacancies and too few applicants to fill them. Kevin D. Liles hiding caption for NPR

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Kevin D. Liles for NPR

Dalton, Georgia suffered some of the worst job losses in the country a decade ago. Now employers have another problem here: too many vacancies and too few applicants to fill them.

Kevin D. Liles for NPR

DACA is now at the center of the immigration debate on Capitol Hill and in court. The Trump administration ended the program, saying that Congress needed to find a replacement. And Dalton employers are concerned about what will happen next.

“DACA has been a big problem for us,” said Rob Bradham, president of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce. “Just because they are valuable employees for our industries and we don’t want to lose them.” There are up to 4,000 DACA recipients living in the Dalton area, according to Bradham.

That’s not the only thing employers worry about here.

The Trump administration has also threatened to crack down on companies that hire undocumented immigrants. In Dalton, this brings back memories of the 1990s when immigration authorities raided some of the largest carpet mills in town. Now the US Immigration and Customs Service is talking about stepping up raids on the workplace again.

Full employment: are we there yet?

“This year, the implementation on the construction site will increase considerably”, says the acting ICE director Thomas Homan. “We will hold employers accountable and take action against employers. We will also arrest the illegal alien working on the construction site.”

In Georgia this shouldn’t be a problem. The state passed a law a few years ago requiring large employers to use the federal e-verify system, an online tool that checks the internet through paperwork to ensure workers have legal status.

But immigration lawyers say in practice the system is not foolproof.

“There are some employers in the field that I know they hire a lot of illegal immigrants who have no status,” said Joseph Baldwin, a local immigration attorney. He says he received calls from nervous employers.

“They say I can’t afford to lose these employees who really do things here,” Baldwin said. “They know that these people have no criminal record. They have families. They are really part of my family now. What can we do? Unfortunately there is no solution several times.”

FACT CHECK: Are DACA Recipients Stealing Jobs from Other Americans?

Community leaders told me that only about 10 percent of the immigrants in Dalton are here illegally and that most of them have legal status. Some have lived in Dalton for decades, raised families and started businesses here.

Mariscos Puerto Vallarta is a seafood restaurant in Dalton owned by Mexican immigrants. Over lunch of ceviche and fish tacos, several local businesspeople said fear and uncertainty hang over many families here.

“A family that has someone with DACA doesn’t yet know what’s going to happen,” said Francisco Paniagua, who owns two dealerships in the Dalton area. “All of these people could buy houses. They could buy cars, whatever. But they’re scared. They’re not spending any money right now, I guess.”

These community leaders say this is a problem for business. And also the economy of the region.