Sunday, February 8, 2009

Legislative Immigration Update

Lawmakers Examine Migrant Labor in Idaho

Boise--The two Agricultural Affairs committees heard presentations this week on the importance of immigrant labor in Idaho.

Brent Olmstead, represented both the Milk Producers of Idaho and the Idaho Business Coalition for Immigration Reform. He told the committee that there are industry concerns with both the H-2A and the e-verify programs. Olmstead told the committee that its hard to find a farm labor work force.

“The US faces a serious economic, labor market and security challenge," said Olmstead. "We are barely replacing the existing work force through native born workers. We're not coming close to producing enough native born workers to meet the demands of our economy. This has been the case for well over a decade, and yet our legal immigration policies have been mostly blind to the labor force needs of the economy. As a consequence, we now have millions of persons living and working in the US illegally.”

Olmstead went on to say that a diversified economy demands a diverse workforce. Native born workers are staying away from Ag sector jobs, legal migrant workers are going after the higher paid jobs.

“Employers want to hire a qualified, dependable and legal workforce. But they can only hire workers that apply for the jobs. Right now the traditional worker is not applying for employment in the agricultural sector and the reasons are obvious. With more available jobs than legal workers, the legal workers have migrated to the more skilled, year round, more pleasant, urban, higher paying jobs. It's not the fault of agriculture, but more a reflection of the reality that when there are more jobs than workers, the less attractive jobs are more likely to go unfilled.”

The committee’s questioned the impacts on Idaho agriculture and are interested in finding solutions that will bring a legal, stable work force to the Gem State while securing our borders.
There's talk of introducing an Arizona type of law that places sanctions on employers who hire undocumented workers, so far that bill has'nt found a lot of support in the Capitol annex.

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