Friday, June 22, 2012

Growers debate how Obama's lifting of deportation threat from young immigrants affects them

With President Obama's executive order to halt the deportation of young, illegal immigrants announced late last week, Agri-Pulse reports that U.S. agriculture is wrestling with its possible impact on the labor force. The executive order, which incorporates part of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a measure pending in Congress that, while not granting citizenship to children who came to the United States as illegal immigrants, would remove the threat of deportation and grant them the right to work in the United States. The move may provide work permits to as many as 800,000 young immigrants.

"While this might be a step in the right direction, it could set back efforts by the agricultural industry to get a new guest worker program or other needed immigration reform legislation passed in Congress," said Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers. West Mathison, president of Stemilt Growers, a fruit producing company based in Washington state that relies on immigrant labor for a portion of its workforce, told Agri-Pulse that, "We're trying to understand how this is going to work and how we're going to work with our people who might be in this category. It's going to create hope in the lives of many young people who under no fault of their own have come to know the U.S. as their own, yet that don't have legitimate documentation."

However, Western Growers chief lobbyist, Ken Barbic, said the measure "is as at best short-term relief to something that Congress needs to act on, whether we are talking about the DREAM Act specificially, or larger immigration issues." Barbic noted that the industry has been waiting a long time for some kind of congressional solution.

Agri-Pulse is a subscription-only weekly newsletter, but it offers a four-week trial subscription.

No comments: