Arizona agriculture needs immigration reform

Tom Nassif

Tom Nassif

Agriculture is a central pillar of the Arizona economy, but without workable immigration laws that provide growers with a dependable, legal workforce this essential industry faces huge barriers to success. Western Growers Association has stressed the urgent need for immigration policy changes in recent meetings with Arizona Congressional delegation representatives, and will continue to do so in the next several months. It is important to urge our leaders to make fixing our broken immigration system one of their top legislative goals this year.

Agriculture is a $9 billion Arizona industry, a crucial segment of the state economy that supports jobs for thousands of Arizonans, all working to provide nutritious food and fiber to millions of people around the nation and the world. Immigrant workers are a necessity for this important industry, as many farm, ranch, and food processing job openings simply do not attract enough American applicants. Without the hard work of immigrant laborers, Arizona harvests as we know them today would simply be impossible to sustain.

Arizona growers want and need a legal workforce. Undocumented workers can be gone in an instant – victims of an immigration system that gives them no method of complying with the law while still providing for their families. The constant specter of deportation not only negatively impacts the lives of so many immigrant families; it directly hinders investments in training and agricultural production that could significantly increase Arizona – and U.S. – economic output.

Ineffective guest and seasonal worker programs have resulted in a nationwide farm labor shortage. Studies have shown that farm income could drop by as much as $9 billion and thousands of U.S. farms could fail if this situation is not addressed. Failing to act on this critical issue will create negative economic consequences and cause our food production to be controlled by foreign countries.

Reforming our outdated immigration laws is the answer. We must rewrite immigration statutes to provide enough visas to meet the needs of U.S. employers, and devise a method of bringing the millions of undocumented workers living among us out of the shadows and into fully productive participation in our economy.

There are significant benefits to be gained – in all economic sectors – from immigration reform. Analysis conducted by REMI estimates that increasing the availability of visas for temporary or seasonal agricultural workers would create hundreds of new Arizona jobs, and add almost $15 million to wage and salary disbursements in just the first year. By 2020, Arizona workers would receive an additional $55.5 million in wages from instituting this single, simple immigration reform strategy.

Bringing undocumented workers into legality would also boost job creation and economic growth. The first year result from the creation of a pathway to legality would amount to more than 3,200 new jobs and a $265 million increase in Arizona Gross State Product. Six years later, 14,500 jobs would be added and GSP would expand by almost $1.2 billion.

Arizona growers not only put food on our tables, they pay taxes that fund public services and play a key role in maintaining a strong state economy in which other businesses can succeed – every farm job supports 3 to 4 good jobs in other industries. Arizona agriculture is a valuable resource we must protect, and reforming our immigration laws to ensure growers of a viable labor force is one of the best ways to help them survive. We applaud the Arizona delegation for meeting with groups like ours, and hope that they will fight for the issues in immigration reform that are important to the agriculture and general business communities of Arizona.

Tom Nassif  is President and CEO of Western Growers.

Are You Marching for Immigration Reform?

March for Innovation

There’s a virtual march for immigration reform taking place online.

Are you part of it?

Now is your chance to check out the discussion and action taking place online to innovate immigration reform in America.

Visit MarchforInnovation.com for more information.

 

 

Senator Jeff Flake Amendments to Immigration Bill Adopted in Committee

Washington, D.C. – United States Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), today offered two amendments during the Senate Committee on the Judiciary markup of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The amendments were adopted en bloc.  

Flake #1: Adds three private land owner representatives (one from the Northern border region and two from the Southern border region) to the Department of Homeland Security Border Oversight Task Force included in the bill. 

Flake #2: Revises the schedule for the Department of Homeland Security’s submittal of the semiannual status report regarding the implementation of the Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy to 180 days after submission and every 180 days thereafter. Additionally, it adds the Comptroller of the United States as a recipient of the status report, and adds a requirement for an annual review by the Comptroller of the reports and an assessment of the status and progress of the strategy.

Senator Flake announced the adoption of these amendments on Twitter:

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Immigration Reform for the Sake of National Security

by Bob Price (re-posted with author’s permission – original link)

Immigration reform should be viewed as a matter of national security and not social engineering. Currently our immigration system is more about family reunification than it is about economic needs and national security. In fact, the current system is so broken that we have millions of undocumented people wandering around the country,  and we have no idea who they are, why they are here, or the history of their background. The current system must be reformed, not to pander to the voting block of one particular group or another, but rather because our national needs require it.

Many times groups try to label any attempt at immigration reform as amnesty. They dig their heels into the ground screaming “Amnesty, Amnesty” like it is some kind of honorable battle cry. The reality is, their blocking of immigration reform has actually granted a de facto amnesty to those who have entered the country illegally and those who entered legally but remained after their visas expired. Millions of people are allowed to stay without examination as to purpose or history. This is a dangerous situation to us all.

Furthermore, our current stance of increasing border security (which should continue) without correcting the problems of our broken immigration system have led to much lawlessness along the border and across the nation. While our borders have become more secure, we do not have any kind of guest worker program for people to come here legally, which has created a market for human trafficking and slavery. Instead of simply applying for a legal work permit, people who are starving for work to support their families are forced to engage in criminal behavior to come here. Not only do they spend thousands of dollars to human smugglers, they end up bringing their families because it is too difficult to come and go legally.

The revenue of human trafficking along our borders also helps fuel the armies of the drug cartels. A virtual civil war is going on along our southern border making parts of Mexico more dangerous than Iraq. Thousands of Mexicans are being killed because of this. Furthermore, once the human cargo has arrived in the United States, we have created more lawlessness as many unscrupulous employers will illegally hire these workers and improperly misclassified them as independent contractors, pay them sub-standard wages, steal wages from their workers and deprive the government of much needed tax revenue.

Most of the millions of people who are here and who come here illegally, do so without any evil intent. They come here seeking work and wages whereby they can support themselves and their families. But for those who do come here with criminal intent, our broken system enables them to hide in the shadows. Once they have committed crimes, they can simply change their names and disappear into the darkness, or they can simply move to another community and start over again. A reformed system should provide for a biometric identification system which would render annonymity much more difficult.

In addition to the national security needs of our nation, immigration reform is also needed for economic reasons. Despite the fact that our nation suffers from high levels of unemployment and underemployment, there is still a high and unfulfilled demand for manual labor workers. Our current education system is focused on sending people to colleges and universities for high-paying white-collar jobs. In the mean time, employers in the service, construction, agriculture and many other industries struggle to find workers.

Immigration Reform and Guest Worker Programs are not about providing cheap labor to employers. It is about providing workers who are willing to do the work. I remember hearing President Bush, in a State of the Union speech, say that we need immigrant workers to do the jobs American’s won’t do. I was angry – very angry. I thought that was a lie. But as I have studied this problem and talked with employers who want and can’t find legal workers in adequate supply, I have learned that it really is true. Groups like FAIR, the Center for Immigration Studies, and NumbersUSA claim that a guest worker program would create a slave-labor class of workers. The exact opposite is true. Our current broken system has already created a slave labor pool of unidentified workers who cannot compete in the open marketplace and who are afraid to report substandard wages and wage theft.

McAllen International Bridge between US and Mexico

Workers participating in a legal guest worker program would be able to compete in the open marketplace for jobs. If an employer attempted to abuse the worker’s rights either by paying substandard wages or comitting wage theft, the worker would be able to report the employer’s unethical and illegal behaviors as well as move to another job.

Immigration reform would also help legitimate employers in the marketplace. Under our current system, unethical employers are able to have an improper competitive advantage over companies who seek to follow the law. They do this by avoiding taxes through misclassifying workers as independent contractors, paying substandard wages and even stealing wages from a captive slave-labor market. In addition to unfair business competition, these unethical employers also place a burden on taxpayers. By misclassifying workers as independent contractors, they allow deadbeat parents to hide from the child support collection process thereby adding single parents not receiving child support to our welfare roles. Furthermore, by not providing workmen’s compensation and health insurance benefits to their “independent contractors”, workers who are injured on the job end up being dumped in emergency rooms adding to our expanding healthcare costs. Additionally, many of these employers hold these workers under hostile conditions where they are truly held as captors in a slave-labor market.

Border Security and Immigration Reform must both move forward. Not because it is pandering to one side or the other, but because it is the right thing to do for our nation’s security, social and economic needs. The current standoff plays into the hands of Democrats who want to keep the issue as a wedge issue to separate some conservatives from voting for Republicans. But more importantly, it is simply an ongoing amnesty for the people who are here and for those who illegally and improperly profit from this stalemate. We must continue to make the borders more secure, but we cannot wait until some date in the future to also address the issue of reforming our broken immigration system.

Something Republicans Just Need to Learn

By Thomas Martin Salazar

Growing up my father (a Mexican national) taught me the importance of having three basic priorities that should govern my life. These priorities were to always place God first, family second, and work/school third above everything else. After the spanking the Republicans  received this last election day, it seems as if we as a party could benefit from considering these priorities, especially when it comes to the family.  I understand that not every Hispanic person is the same, nor is every Mexican American for that matter. But I do believe that these priorities are important and relatable to the Hispanic and Latino community. While the GOP tends to do a great job at defending religious liberty and is the most active in the defense of the unborn, it seems to neglect one of the most important priorities – family and fails miserably at communicating the third – work/education.

If Republicans wish to gain back the support of the Latino vote, especially that of the Mexican Americans in many southwestern states, then we need to end the rhetorical attacks on their families. Hispanics are not going to vote for any candidate whom they  think is going to deport their abuelita or go after their parents, husbands or wives.  They also will not support candidates of a party who want to end birthright citizenship. If we are to be the party of family values which I believe we are, then we must let go of our rhetoric and reach out in good faith to work towards some form of immigration reform just as George W. Bush tried to do. Conservatives seem to think and fear that Hispanics are inherently liberal. I disagree. The Democratic party does not hold our values; but neither do they pander to the immigration enforcement only crowd as republicans tend to do. I am not calling for open borders or lax enforcement. I am suggesting that we use our enforcement resources on the border and go after the criminals and the cartels, meanwhile, finding a humane way to keep families united and help build a better future for America and the Republican Party. When the Republicans finally embrace pro-family policies and cease the rhetoric that has been perceived as anti-Hispanic, then the door will be opened for further dialogue.

After we reach out in good faith, then we, as a party, must communicate better toward Hispanics and Latinos in general. We need candidates and organized groups to reach out and educate them on economic issues. Both employment and education are top priorities for many Hispanics, but if they do not see the connection from the policy played out in their daily lives, then we are failing to communicate.  Republicans must do a better job at explaining how raising tax rates and continued deficit spending will negatively impact them. While at the same time, Republicans need to articulately respond with fiscally sound economic policies that will lead to economic growth and rising incomes. Moreover, we need to defend the free market and explain how it is their inherent right as human beings, created by God, to choose how to spend and use their money. Republicans should also educate Hispanic voters on  the myriads of federal regulations and taxes that are inhibiting his or her ability to freely choose, by decreasing growth and upward mobility.

Furthermore,  we need to work harder at  defending educational choice for parents. We have an over regulated education system that sends billions of dollars to bureaucrats in the Department of Education, while spending on students and their classrooms  are both neglected. Moreover, Republicans can defiantly win on the issue of school choice. School choice is not a federal program; it is the right for parents to have the choice whether to send their children to public, private or charter schools or even homeschool if they wish. Parents should be afforded all options because each child learns differently and no one size fits all federal education program will meet those needs. We must oppose federal one size fits all cookie cutter educational standards and move  towards state rights  and parental rights. Education is a pivotal issue for each and every Hispanic mother and father. This goal will be hindered if  we do not reach out and clearly articulate to Hispanic voters our educational polices.

Thus, we must do better at articulating our values to the Hispanic and in particular  the Mexican American community. I do believe this goal is attainable and I am optimistic.  Just recently, conservative talk show host, Sean Hannity, came out in favor for immigration reform and the Speaker of the House,  John Boehner, said he is “confident”  that the Republican congress can reach a deal on an immigration reform bill. Again, we are the ones who need to reach out in good faith and restart the dialogue. Therefore, I pray that the GOP will heed these words and consider the three top priorities of this frustrated Republican: God, family, and work/education. If we do anything less, failure is inevitable.

Editors note: as with all blog postings that appear with a by-line, the opinions presented are the author’s and not necessarily the positions of Cafe Con Leche Republicans.

Thomas Martin Salazar is an Arizona leader of the Café con Leche Republicans. Thomas was born and raised in Arizona. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in History from Grand Canyon University and is currently working on obtaining a MDiv in Biblical Communication from Phoenix Seminary. Thomas has also served as the Grand Canyon University College Republicans Vice President and interim President (February 2007-April 2008) and as a Maricopa County Republican Precinct committeeman (August 2009 – August 2012).

Horizon: John Kavanagh on Obama’s New Immigration Enforcement Policy

Great interview on Horizon of State Representative John Kavanagh on President Obama’s new immigration enforcement deferment policy.

Evangelicals Reshaping Policy on Immigration Reform

Do any of my Evangelical brothers and sisters disagree with this?

Our national immigration laws have created a moral, economic and political crisis in America. Initiatives to remedy this crisis have led to polarization and name calling in which opponents have misrepresented each other’s positions as open borders and amnesty versus deportations of millions. This false choice has led to an unacceptable political stalemate at the federal level at a tragic human cost. – Evangelical Immigration Table

Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform

Our national immigration laws have created a moral, economic and political crisis in America. Initiatives to remedy this crisis have led to polarization and name calling in which opponents have misrepresented each other’s positions as open borders and amnesty versus deportations of millions. This false choice has led to an unacceptable political stalemate at the federal level at a tragic human cost.

As evangelical Christian leaders, we call for a bipartisan solution on immigration that:

  • Respects the God-given dignity of every person
  • Protects the unity of the immediate family
  • Respects the rule of law
  • Guarantees secure national borders
  • Ensures fairness to taxpayers
  • Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents

We urge our nation’s leaders to work together with the American people to pass immigration reform that embodies these key principles and that will make our nation proud.