House should pass much-needed immigration reform
By Chris Kraft and Don Shawcroft
Consider these facts: $46 billion in new border security spending. 700 miles of fencing. Nearly 20,000 additional border security agents. Requiring all employers, and yes, that includes every farmer and rancher in the country, to use the federal E-Verify program to verify their workers’ legal status.
Additionally, there is federal deficit reduction of $197 billion in the first decade after enactment followed by an additional $700 billion in deficit reduction in the second decade. That adds up to nearly a trillion dollars of deficit reduction in the first 20 years.
The U.S. border is more secure today than it has ever been in the history of our country. We are deporting more illegal immigrants than ever before. And the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says illegal immigration is now net-zero.
All of this, and yet the U.S. House of Representatives continues to drag its feet on passing comprehensive immigration reform.
For generations our nation’s agriculture industry has relied on foreign labor to help bring in our crops. However, when the best opportunity in a generation is upon us to accomplish reform — real reform —of our broken immigration system, some of our elected representatives would rather make headlines by claiming that simply throwing more money at the border is the sure answer.
In fact, the piecemeal approach to our immigration laws is exactly what has led to the problems we face today.
We wholeheartedly agree we need our borders to be secure. But talking only about border security isn’t telling the whole story. We all know our entire immigration system needs an overhaul from top to bottom.
Many things have been written and said about what the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill provides or does not provide. It does not grant amnesty.
What it does provide is a process which individuals can follow to work toward legal status, maybe even citizenship someday.
Just as America’s farmers and ranchers and our rural neighbors profess to own the patent on family values, a strong work ethic and good common sense, we must not ignore the fact that many of our values are the same values that are instilled in those people who want to come to our country: They come here to find a better way of life, to make a living and to provide for their children.
Agriculture is one of the largest contributors to our state’s economy, generating more than $40 billion in economic activity annually.
Of all the major sectors of the national economy, agriculture is the most dependent on migrant labor. Fixing our country’s broken immigration system will provide the industry with a stable, reliable work force, increasing productivity and ensuring we are able to meet the demand of consumers across America and around the globe.
We call on all of our House members to get to work. Find a solution. And, yes, that might even call for some compromise.
The Senate has already done its work to find a solution, and we support the bipartisan bill it passed earlier this summer. We hope the House of Representatives will show the same courage, the same bipartisanship and the same leadership.
Chris Kraft is chairman of the board of Colorado Dairy Farmers. Don Shawcroft is the president of the Colorado Farm Bureau.