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December 30, 2006

Immigration Policy Hurts US Farming Industry

Just in from AILA; By Eli M. Kantor, For NewsUSA, Guest Commentary

"(NU) - The American farmer is an essential part of America's history and future. What many of us don't often think about is the fact that behind every American farmer and harvest is a community of immigrants who perform the arduous labor that is required to pull, pick and prepare that harvest for our use and enjoyment.

This year, our nation's farmers are facing severe labor shortages due to outdated immigration laws that do not match modern day economic realities. A recent study by the American Farm Bureau Federation indicated that cutting off illegal immigrant labor could cost U.S. agriculture up to $9 billion in production losses, a cost that would inevitably be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher food prices.

Affected farmers know firsthand that our nation's immigration system is broken, and they warn that if the system is not fixed, eventually the high-quality, locally grown foods that Americans want will no longer be available.

A group of lettuce growers who previously harvested crops in California is just one example of farmers who have shut down operations here and moved their business to Mexico. These growers say that if they cannot get the help that they need here, they will go where the workers are.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, undocumented immigrants fill as many as 25 percent of all farming jobs in America. However, many of this season's crops have been left rotting in states like California, Idaho and Washington because the growers are crippled by the inability to find the workers they rely on to fill these jobs.
Their principal labor supply is drying up due to tightened border security, active enforcement of internal regulations and an increase in the activity of vigilante groups, all of which threaten undocumented workers with incarceration and eventual deportation.
Farmers don't want to have to rely on an undocumented and vulnerable immigrant work force. But our immigration system fails to provide an adequate, workable visa program by which seasonal workers can enter the U.S. legally. The American Farm Bureau Federation supports legislation that "provides a workable temporary worker program which would address agriculture's needs for an adequate and reliable legal work force." Farmers need and deserve a stable, legal labor supply.
Congress failed to responsibly fix our immigration system by passing an ineffective and symbolic "fence bill" instead of enacting comprehensive immigration reform. As the farmers who are losing their business along with their labor force know, America's agricultural industry cannot survive so long as Congress resorts to enforcement-only immigration regulation.

They support immigration legislation that will help undocumented workers come out of the shadows, earn legal status and fully become part of society so they can continue to contribute to the economic and social wealth of the nation".

Eli M. Kantor is an attorney in private practice in Beverly Hills, Calif., and a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Posted by VisaLawyer at December 30, 2006 09:32 AM

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