A coalition of business and agricultural leaders is urging Congress to act on immigration reform.
The coalition includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Partnership for a New American Economy, Business Roundtable, the American Farm Bureau Federation, AmericanHort, the National Association of Manufacturers and Western Growers.
“For agriculture it’s essential for Congress to act now,” said Jon DeVaney, executive director of the Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association, in a recent Washington state media conference call.
“It’s been essential for quite a while and waiting until it’s easy to do will never happen,” DeVaney said. “Conditions are getting worse politically and those trapped in a broken immigration system suffer meantime.”
He noted Washington’s No. 1 farm gate value agricultural commodity, apples, is estimated to have a $7.1 billion annual impact on the state’s economy and responsible for 61,000 jobs from orchard to packing work, sales and jobs in supporting industries.
When orchards and packing sheds are short of workers it has an economic impact up and down the region economically, he said. There’s been loss of farm income due to malfunction of current immigration laws, he said.
Don Orange, owner of Hoesly Eco Automotive, Vancouver, Wash., said he would like to see undocumented workers have a path to citizenship. Many of them are the type to start small businesses but live in the shadows, he said.
“It sets up unfair competition,” he said. “These people want to be part of the American dream. Many of them pick crops and clean hotel rooms.”
Chris Eyler, Northwest regional director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the economy suffers because of a broken immigration system. High-tech companies will move overseas because they can’t get the type of workers they need here and immigration caps make them wait five years to get immigrants, he said.