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.
This year’s Western Growers Annual Meeting is proving very popular as sign-ups are coming in at a record pace and rooms at the Bellagio Hotel are going fast. If you haven’t done so already, make your reservations today and also register for WG’s 89th Annual Meeting, November 2 – 5 in Las Vegas. Gary Pasquinelli and former Tonight Show host Jay Leno will light up the Awards Dinner on Tuesday night. You will also not want to miss seeing Michelle Malkin of Fox News fame at the PAC Lunch on Monday as she squares off against syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette on the issue of immigration reform. As Congress remains deadlocked on solving the problem, the controversy continues and the tension simmers.
Members of the Western Growers Board of Directors convened this week in Orange County under the leadership of Chairman Bruce Taylor to deliberate the top issues affecting the industry. High on the list of issues discussed were the drought and regulatory restrictions on water supply, food safety, labor union activities and immigration reform. Several standing committees featured guest speakers. Dr. Jay Famiglietti, a senior water cycle scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and David Orth, general manager of the Kings River Conservation District, presented to the Water Committee; Amy Wolfe, president and CEO of AgSafe, presented to the Labor Committee; and Dr. Jerry Baron, executive director of IR-4 presented to the Food Safety, Science & Technology Committee.