On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced several executive actions on immigration. Under the plan, an estimated four to five million undocumented immigrants will likely qualify for temporary relief from the threat of removal, and be eligible to receive employment authorization. The president’s decision to bypass Congress has infuriated many Republicans with some vowing to block these measures.
The chasm between opposing sides on the immigration reform debate crystalized when two journalists squared off during the Western Growers Political Action Committee fundraising luncheon held in Las Vegas in early November in conjunction with the association’s 89th Annual Meeting.
When the opening bell rang on 2014, optimism was high that immigration reform, including a guest worker program, would become law before the closing bell of this year. That optimism is long gone with the chance of comprehensive legislation anytime soon pretty much off the table.
While the fight for immigration reform deserves the top billing for 2014 in terms of its continued impact on agriculture, there were a plethora of other issues that also garnered the much-deserved attention of the ag community.
Now that President Obama has laid out his plan to use executive actions to alter the way current immigration laws are enforced, Ag employers are considering the impacts on their workforce. Most details are not yet available, but it appears that many of the changes that could impact the industry may take months. One thing is certain: the president is not enacting any special policies or regulations to help agriculture as he is doing for businesses that hire high-skilled workers.
“Congress must reassert its constitutional authority to make laws and pass immigration reform legislation critical to the needs of our industry,” said Western Growers President and CEO, Tom Nassif, in a statement released to the press in anticipation of the executive action the president will take later today. The president intends to announce tonight, actions which will remove the threat of deportation for up to five million people. The president’s executive order will expand upon the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy that was implemented in 2012 to include parents of U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident children.
Statement from Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif on President Obama’s immigration executive action:
“We cannot yet assess the full impact of the president’s actions on agriculture, but we know this: Congress must reassert its constitutional authority to make laws and pass immigration reform legislation critical to the needs of our industry and the nation. Some in Congress will argue that the president’s action must be met with a legislative response to block bad policies, but preventing the implementation of executive actions alone is not enough. These actions by the president should also serve as a catalyst for Congress to lead by passing meaningful immigration reform legislation. To achieve meaningful reform legislation:
Agriculture’s needs must be a top priority to ensure our existing workforce is given an incentive to continue working in agriculture until a new and better visa program is in place. The value of agricultural workers to our country’s economy and food production system must be recognized with a path to legal status that acknowledges their past service and ongoing importance to this industry.
An effective border security bill should be passed immediately, and it should accept that securing our borders is an ongoing and continuous commitment. While we need effective metrics for demonstrating progress, there is no ‘completion date’ for securing the border. Holding immigration reform hostage to arbitrary and momentary assessments of the border situation should be rejected.
Both parties and both chambers of the Congress must work together towards solutions. While Republicans are in control, we believe any legislation will require bipartisan support, and we expect our leaders to forge such agreement.
We will oppose any piecemeal legislative package that fails to put the agriculture industry at the front of the line. Our industry is in jeopardy. We expect no less than specific solutions that address problems unique to our industry.”
Western Growers’ 89th Annual Meeting in Las Vegas promises to be a big hit due to many exciting events taking place during the course of the week. Two of meeting’s hottest events, the Political Action Committee Luncheon and the Golf Tournament, continue to gain critical mass with the number of registrations continuing to climb.