California Ag and High-Tech Groups Join Forces To Push Immigration Reform

Two of California’s largest industry associations today announced a partnership aimed at raising awareness on Capitol Hill about the essential role immigrant labor plays in the success of our nation’s leadership in high-tech and agriculture.

The effort by the California Strawberry Commission and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group is intended to underscore the critical link between immigration and the success of the largest drivers of the economy, officials for both groups said.

Today’s announcement follows a joint letter they sent Monday to Congress on the issue.

“Our goods touch the lives of every American every day of the year — whether they are reading email, using a cell phone, opening a refrigerator, or enjoying a meal,” according to the letter. “None of this would be possible without the enormous contributions immigrants have made to our respective industries. They are essential and integral factors to our success.”

The groups are meeting jointly with lawmakers in Washington, D.C. this week. The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, founded in 1978 by David Packard of Hewlett-Packard, represents more than 375 of Silicon Valley’s most respected employers on issues, programs and campaigns that affect the economic health and quality of life in Silicon Valley.

“Comprehensive immigration reform is absolutely essential to the future job growth and the overall health of the American economy,” said Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. “It is critical that the House take action on it as soon as possible.”

According to the joint letter to Congress, high-tech and related emerging technologies in the next 12 years are anticipated to have an economic impact between $14 trillion and $33 trillion a year. Agriculture and related businesses account for about $10 trillion annually to the American economy; it employs just over one-sixth of the entire U.S. civilian labor force.

In addition to economic benefits to business, addressing immigration reform is critical for helping business solve many societal issues, including world hunger.

“Hard working immigrants harvest the food every day that feeds our country. They come to America knowing they take the hardest jobs in exchange for an opportunity to improve their lives. The taxes they pay create jobs for teachers; the food they harvest generates three more jobs. Some will work for the season and return home. Others will earn their way to citizenship,” said Rick Tomlinson, president of the strawberry commission. “As the grandson of a Bracero, I know that immigration reform will only strengthen our country and that without it our farms and our communities are at risk.”

Both Tomlinson and Guardino said that the U.S. is currently unable to meet the unique needs of their respective industries for innovation and manual labor.

According to their letter, “The last major immigration reform was 27 years ago, when a tablet described a pad of paper, not a touch-screen. If we fail to act now, it might be another couple of decades before we are able to adjust our immigration laws to meet the 21st century demands of our nation.

“For all these reasons, we respectfully ask that you employ the perseverance of a farm worker and the innovative thinking of a software engineer to honor America with immigration reform.”

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