The headline in Feedstuffs Magazine read, “Immigration Reform: Time Has Come.” Has it? That is the consensus opinion of Agriculture. The Chamber of Commerce, Farm Bureau and most business and agricultural organizations are calling for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.
Ironically, most rural agricultural areas elect conservative political officials and conservatives who do not support what constitutes comprehensive immigration reform. My Congressman, Steve King, is a prime example. King is very much pro-agriculture/pro-biofuel with this one glaring exception. They always bring up the lack of border security, bad mouthing the Obama administration saying they would not enforce the law when they have done more than any other administration ever doing so. There is no pleasing the opposition as the border has never been as secure as it is today or deportments ever been as high. There was a prohibitively high cost put into the Senate immigration bill for border security attempting to get conservative support.
The lack of border control is the ideologue’s excuse to oppose immigration reform and they are sticking to it. The Conservatives don’t even think military service should provide a path to citizenship. I sure would think that having soldiers who are fighting for their country are better than those who are fighting for someone who does not respect their service enough to consider it worthy of citizenship.
A majority of Americans want immigration reform so the minority that opposes it is using all the levers that they can to thwart the interest of the majority on this issue. Some thought that there was a chance that the House, where reform is blocked, would take this up after the fall election in a lame duck session. There is a fair number in the GOP, including Speaker Boehner, who want this issue dealt with to make it go away but GOP pro-immigration reform members fear being challenged in primaries. That is why House Majority Leader Eric Cantor had blocked progress toward any immigration bill in the House and even that didn’t impress opponents or save his seat, proving the primary challenge threat was real. Cantor’s primary defeat likely ended any prospect of moving immigration reform legislation in the House.
Politically, I don’t know why the Democrats try as hard as they do toward immigration reform as they are better off letting the GOP twist in the hot wind they generate themselves from the Latino voters who are citizens. Tea Party Conservatives think that the illegals will just add votes for Democrats if they become citizens but that is the hole they dug for themselves. I would think that it would be smart to stop digging in deeper.
They should stop denigrating these people. The 11 million immigrants living and working in the country today are already integrated into the community. Agriculture knows them better than anyone else having worked with them the most and they do not deserve the depiction strident conservatives give them. Estimates are that 60 to 70 percent of U.S. farm workers are illegals.
Immigration reform is more than about citizenship. What farmers want more than anything is a legal system to employ the workers that they need. The National Agricultural and Rural Development Policy Center advocates three major policy goals for reform: “1.) Provide farm employers with sufficient legal workers on terms that keep U.S. agriculture competitive. 2.) Provide protections for current and future hired farmworkers to ensure they receive adequate wages and safe working conditions. 3.) Increase opportunities for foreign-born farmworkers to return with savings to their countries of origin or to stay in the U.S. and move up the labor market.”
More than 70 agricultural associations and businesses have formed the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform. They support the Senate Bill that “Expands and reforms the temporary workers program to allow a three-year visa for Ag workers. It creates a pathway to citizenship for temporary workers. Unauthorized workers would be required to settle taxes, pay fines, and wait in line for 13 years. It also authorizes $46 billion for more border security.”
They came with an absurd number to be spent on border security in an attempt to do what the opposition demanded. The GOP party leadership talked about enlarging their tent after the last lost Presidential election and that lasted about 10 minutes. Being on the wrong side of history or Presidential elections doesn’t appear to bother them enough to change.
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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