Farm Bureau, Non-Ag Coalition Pressure House GOP on Immigration

More than 600 groups and businesses call on House Speaker John Boehner to act on immigration

Published on: Feb 26, 2014

More than 600 groups, including 154 agricultural organizations, Tuesday called on House Speaker John Boehner to act on the House's stalled immigration reform plans.

The groups, which included several agricultural businesses and organizations, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a letter that failure to act in the House is "not an option."

"Done properly, reform will deter illegal immigration, protect and complement our U.S. workforce, better respond to changing economic and demographic needs, and generate greater productivity and economic activity, while respecting family unity," the letter said.

More than 600 groups and businesses call on House Speaker John Boehner to act on immigration
More than 600 groups and businesses call on House Speaker John Boehner to act on immigration

"We cannot afford to be content and watch a dysfunctional immigration system work against our overall national interest. In short, immigration reform is an essential element of a jobs agenda and economic growth. It will add talent, innovation, investment, products, businesses, jobs, and dynamism to our economy," the letter continued.

The signatories to the letter expressed support for Congress and the administration using the House Republicans' "Standards for Immigration Reform" as guideposts for action this year.

Boehner, however, has indicated that moving forward on immigration changes is unlikely in 2014, suggesting that difficulties reaching agreement with the White House and the Senate may stand in the way.

Related: Ag Groups Put Pressure On Immigration Issue, But House Uneasy

Thomas Donohue, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, explained in a Monday blog post that key issues for the group remain the lack of an amnesty policy or electronic employment verification and issues with border security.

But despite the issues, he said, there will never be a perfect time for reform.

"The political landscape isn’t going to be any more conducive to reform in two years or four years," he wrote. "For too long, the can has been kicked down the road. And while we’ve failed to act, the problem has only grown worse. Today, the fact remains that it is in our national interest to get it done."

#IFarmImmigration
The letter follows a campaign initiated by the Partnership for a New American Economy, the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, the American Farm Bureau Federation and more than 70 other agriculture groups to press for immigration reform using social media and in-person discussion with lawmakers.

The campaign, announced earlier this month, is called #IFarmImmigration. According to AFBF, the plan includes efforts by farmers and ranchers to keep immigration at the forefront by conducting farm tours and participating in the conversation through social and traditional media and videos.

So far, the campaign has received a strong response, says Kristi Boswell, AFBF farm labor specialist.

"We have a lot more work to do in the next three weeks," Boswell explained on Friday, underscoring AFBF's goal in ensuring Congress members are aware of the need for immigration changes and its impacts on ag labor.

"The House needs to act this year," she said. "We can't wait any longer."