Immigration Reform Keeping Ag Industry's Attention

American Farm Bureau, industry groups sign letter of support to House on immigration reform

Published on: Jul 31, 2013

More than 400 industry and advocacy groups, including the American Farm Bureau, Tuesday signed on to a letter of support for immigration legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The letter, addressed to House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, was signed by groups representing agriculture, housing, retail, tourism, hospitality, technology, engineering, manufacturing and finance industries, among others.

Groups said the proposed policies in the legislation would bring reforms to an "outdated, broken immigration system." The current immigration policies have been in effect for more than 30 years.

American Farm Bureau, industry groups sign letter of support to House on immigration reform
American Farm Bureau, industry groups sign letter of support to House on immigration reform

"We deal with an immigration system that is now in its third decade and completely incapable of being responsive to an ever-changing national economy and hypercompetitive global marketplace," the groups wrote. "Today, the problems with our immigration system have grown and multiplied to become an emerging threat to the current and future productivity, ingenuity and competitiveness of key sectors of our economy."

Groups said if done right, the reform would come at a critical time for American economic recovery, protecting and complimenting the current U.S. workforce and generating greater productivity, new innovations, products, businesses and jobs.

The groups reiterated key points from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack's Monday conference call, during which he said a lack of labor without immigration reform will result in decreased agricultural production, and therefore fewer agricultural outputs and exports.

Despite the push from Vilsack – and the support from industry groups – some lawmakers remain skeptical of provisions in the bill that they say provide amnesty to immigrants here illegally.

However, it appears that donors to the GOP are attempting to strengthen support for the immigration bill, as evidenced by a July 30 letter to House Republicans from the advocacy group Republicans for Immigration Reform, which they note: "Standing in the way of reform ensures that we perpetuate a broken system that stifles our economy … and risk a long-lasting perception that Republicans would rather see nothing done than pass needed reform."

The New York Times reports that the letter marks the beginning of a campaign to promote immigration reform as lawmakers return home for August recess.

A key message from both letters was the effect of consequences if action is not taken.

"We can't afford to be content and watch a generation-old immigration system work more and more against our overall national interest," AFBF and industry groups said. "Instead, we urge Congress to remain mindful of the clear benefits to our economy if we succeed, and work together and with us to achieve real, pro-growth immigration reform."