By Gene Hall

Immigration Reform

Immigration is one of those issues that almost always cause an eruption of emotion.  Emotion is the wellspring of our humanity but it can be the enemy of reason.  This is the case with immigration reform.

The two poles of this debate stand light years apart.  On the one side are the advocates of open borders and unlimited services to waves of poor people leaving unfortunate circumstances.  Some in this camp lobby for an easy path to citizenship, believing these immigrants will vote in a predictable way.  On the other side are those that advocate an enforcement only policy.  They believe that the estimated 12 million people here illegally should be found, rounded up and ejected by whatever means necessary.  Both sides are wrong.

The murder of an Arizona rancher by a perpetrator believed to be an illegal alien exacerbates an already charged situation.  It also points out how the volatile illegal drug trade near the U.S.-Mexico border has complicated immigration issues.

Our porous border has allowed criminals to enter the U.S.  It has also allowed some to slip through to have children here.  Those children are the so called anchor babies since birth on U.S. soil entitles U.S. citizenship.  The majority of the illegal aliens came here to work.  And there are jobs for them.  Even in these difficult economic times, U.S. agriculture has a labor crisis.  Most farmers and ranchers still struggle to find all the workers they need.

The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates there are about 15 million people in the United States who choose non-farm jobs at wages that are actually lower than what they could earn by working in agriculture. Yes, many could earn more on the farm, but choose not to.  Some of the work is seasonal and it can be hard.  For whatever reason, many Americans choose not to do it. 

The appetite of U.S. consumers for fresh fruits and vegetables will not diminish regardless of how the labor scenario works out. Whether or not those fruits and vegetables are grown in the U.S. or imported from other countries is very much in doubt.  This is still a labor intensive industry. 

U.S. workers can choose to work in whatever jobs suit them.  By the same token, willing workers from other nations who want only to work and be paid a fair wage have a place in the labor market too.

Comprehensive immigration reform is needed, so that America’s farmers and ranchers can continue to produce an abundant supply of safe, healthy food, fiber and renewable fuels. 

A framework for comprehensive immigration reform has been offered by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).  It’s a good starting point.  Both senators have shown political courage by addressing the issue.

It’s time to tackle immigration reform.  A workable and enforceable guest worker program should be part of it.  Solving that part of this political quagmire would allow us to devote more resources to securing our borders.


Gene Hall

Public Relations Director
Texas Farm Bureau
I believe that the only hope for a food secure world is capitalism and reasonable profits for America’s farm and ranch families–that the first element of sustainability is economic survival.
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One Response to “Wanted – Serious Lawmakers to Tackle Immigration Reform”

  1. Steve Pringle says:

    The major question involving immigration is not border security. Everyone agrees we must maintain a solid border. The question of the decade is what do we do with those people that are here illegally. Specifically those that may have been here many years in an illegal capacity. Those people are probably working, paying taxes, and have kids in school.

    The removal of 12-15 million workers will cripple the US economy. Anyone not understanding of that fact hasn’t eaten in a restaurant in a long time, or stayed in any hotel. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stated last week that 50% of the processed food consumed in the United States is handled by immigrant hands, either legal or illegal.

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