Sunday, February 28, 2010

Farm Bureau Editorial

Punishing Employers Won’t Correct Immigration Woes

by Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau President

Legislation currently under consideration at the Idaho Statehouse would punish employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers. On the surface this legislation appears to address a serious problem. We recognize the many societal concerns that illegal immigration presents and we share the frustration that has brought this legislation to the forefront.

However, we urge legislators and all Idaho residents to proceed with caution. This legislation could punish businesses to the point of shutting them down for violating rules that are nearly impossible to comply with. Punishing employers won’t in any way reduce the demand for general labor in this country. What it will do however, is cause severe economic duress on businesses that are among the most important to Idaho and this nation’s flagging economy. In Idaho we are talking about agriculture, mainly dairy and row crops, service industries tied to tourism like restaurants and hotels, and construction.

Stopping the surge of undocumented aliens into the U.S. will take a unified effort from all 50 states, Congress and the American people. Estimates suggest there are somewhere between eight and 12 million undocumented aliens in the U.S. at the present time. And in spite of millions of dollars of investment to strengthen our borders, they continue to trespass every single day.

Many immigrants cross our borders seeking the opportunity to provide a day’s work in exchange for a day’s pay. However, we know there are also many others who cross with less honorable intentions. From a law enforcement perspective, this problem is multifaceted and impossible to solve on the state level.

This is a land of great opportunity for people coming from the many poverty-stricken regions of Latin America. People who come from poverty are eager for jobs most Americans wouldn’t consider. Many of those jobs are in agriculture and American agriculture needs those workers if we are to continue to produce a healthy, safe, affordable, abundant food supply. However, we want those workers to be here legally and with proper documentation. We support reforming immigration laws that give farm workers the chance to legally enter the U.S. and creation of a guest worker program that works for employers and employees.

Misguided legislation that attacks the symptoms of a problem, in this case the taking of business licenses from employers who hire workers with improper documents, but creates no real solution is never a good idea. During an economic recession it’s even worse. It’s time for Congress to step up with a solution to this national problem.

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