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DAVID KRUSE

By Staff | Feb 21, 2014

Seventy ag groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, want Congress to move forward with full immigration reform.

The current guest workers’ programs are a joke, designed to be unworkable, and are subsequently little used.

Americans who want jobs are not interested in picking fruit and vegetables, nor can they realistically move to rural areas where farm labor is needed to work for low wages.

If they could relocate, it would be for high wages working oil fields in North Dakota that agriculture cannot afford to pay.

An increase in the minimum wage would not change that.

An unemployed worker in Detroit may opt for welfare and food stamps rather than move to a rural area to work on a livestock farm.

Yet an unemployed Mexican will swim the Rio Grande and travel all the way to Iowa to do so, show up for work reliably when they are supposed to and perform well at their jobs.

Employers hiring immigrant workers report an excellent work ethic and a willingness to earn upward mobility.

As a general statement, we have a lot of Americans who think they are stuck, unemployable and not contributing to the GDP.

That is a different subject requiring different solutions.

We also have an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants who employers say are very good workers that are performing as good citizens without the benefit of being such.

The AFBF said that 1.5 to 2 million of those immigrants work in agriculture, so agriculture has had the most experience living and working with them.

I have had conversations with dairy farmers and poultry producers here in Northwest Iowa who employ these immigrants and are strong proponents of comprehensive immigration reform.

Unemployment rates are far lower than the U.S. average in many rural areas that need farm labor. They want a legal system to employ immigrants.

A strong majority of Americans, 68 percent in a Fox News survey, favor comprehensive immigration reform including a path to citizenship.

So if Congress would be doing the people’s will, it would enact something similar to the reform bill passed by the Senate.

Business Republicans favor that, too. Actually, so do a majority of Republicans in general, also counted at 60 percent in the Fox survey. The Republicans, who oppose “amnesty” as they call it, making up core GOP activists, adamantly do so.

These conservatives show up for primaries in districts with low immigrant populations where elected officials bear no electoral risk from their ideological opposition to assimilating immigrants into achieving citizenship.

These ideologues wield political influence in Congress far beyond their numbers.

The irony is that on a national basis, GOP opposition to immigration reform has reduced its electoral ability to compete for national office, by alienating immigrant constituencies, who are Americans with the right to vote and exercise it to Republicans’ lament.

“They broke the law and have big calves the size of cantaloupes from hauling marijuana across the desert” is conservatives’ primary argument against a path to citizenship.

Most Americans, however, do not hold the strong desire of immigrants for a better life, including entering the country illegally, against them if they prove their worth.

No one favors handing out U.S. citizenships willy-nilly, but as a country of immigrants, Americans believe that it can be earned.

To date, a minority of opposition in Congress to comprehensive immigration reform has been able to block it.

Steve King, who is the head of the House caucus on immigration, doesn’t want any bill to advance because he fears that it could get combined with a Senate bill in a conference committee with a path to citizenship in it, and they would not be able to stop a vote by the full House resulting in its passage.

That is essentially what happened with the farm bill and why a final farm bill could pass with only $8 billion in SNAP cuts in it that was opposed by House conservatives who favored larger cuts.

Ironically, King favored and voted for the farm bill.

House Republicans, led by Speaker Boehner, have now taken the tack that it cannot trust President Obama to enforce the nation’s laws.

While there is no evidence of that specific to immigration enforcement given the record number of deportations done by the Obama Administration, the charge does have merit.

That is exactly the case in the EPAs new proposed RFS rules. The law says to use more biofuel and the administration ordered EPA to mandate less use.

This lack of trust in the Obama administration to respect and adhere to laws can be addressed by simply delaying implementation of the reforms until 2016 after Obama leaves office.

The excuse for lack of action on immigration reform only goes so far.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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