Rep. Bonamici champions labor reform

Mitch Lies/Capital Press Oregon Association of Nurseries Executive Director Jeff Stone looks on as U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici fields a question during a roundtable with nursery industry leaders May 24 in Dayton, Ore.

Newest member of Congress addresses nursery leaders at roundtable discussion


Capital Press

DAYTON, Ore. -- The newest member of Congress, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., says comprehensive immigration reform needs to occur at the federal level, not at the state level.

But, she said, Congress is reluctant to tackle the issue.

"There is no question that we need comprehensive immigration reform. It is an issue that keeps coming up, but doesn't get done," she said.

"People tend to want to address it at the state level. I think it needs to be done at the federal level," she said.

"When I hear these stories about the states that pass immigration reform bills, and then people leave the state and they don't have anyone to tend to crops and they have crops rotting on trees, that is not what we need to be doing," she said.

Bonamici, who serves on the House Budget Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee, also said she opposes E-Verify.

In a May 24 roundtable with nursery leaders, Bonamici fielded questions about transportation, specialty crop funding and research funding, in addition to questions about immigration reform.

She said a lack of public awareness about the difficulties farmers face in obtaining a workforce tends to cloud the immigration issue.

"I think it would be helpful for the public to have facts about where you have recruited, how difficult it is for you to get a workforce," she said, "because there are people out there who say you don't have to hire anybody without documentation, because there are plenty of people who will take the job. I don't think they understand how challenging it is to find a workforce and to find people who will do agricultural jobs," she said.

Bonamici also said she opposes an Oregon law, adopted by the 2008 Legislature, that requires applicants for drivers licenses prove they are in the country legally.

"I just thought that was another misguided policy so people could say we did something about undocumented workers," she said. "But I don't think it made our roads any safer," she said. "I think it just resulted in more people driving without a license."

Bonamici won a Jan. 31 special election to represent northwestern Oregon after the 1st District incumbent, David Wu, resigned last year.

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