On Nov. 20, President Obama made an announcement all of agriculture has long been waiting for: He set a plan in motion to fix the dysfunctional immigration system that has frustrated our nation for decades.
As I watched the commentary roll in from various industry organizations in the days that followed, I was taken aback by the amount of criticism that swiftly descended upon the president’s actions and his proposed plan.
While many may argue that President Obama may have overextended his reach by making the executive order, drafting this plan places immigration reform front and center and gives Congress a stronger impetus to take action.
There’s been a lot of back and forth in recent years about what needs to be done to fix the current system, and there were times when it seemed like a consensus might never be reached.
After it was announced that Speaker John Boehner refused to allow a vote on immigration reform, the president and CEO of Western Growers, Tom Nassif, expressed his frustration regarding the inability to reach an agreement in a public statement: “What issues, other than party politics, are stopping the House from doing what this country wants and needs?” Nassif said in his statement.
That same sentiment is expressed in many of the conversations I have with growers about immigration reform, and was very apparent in my most recent conversation with American Vegetable Grower’s January cover subject Fred Leitz of Leitz Farms.
Leitz is currently vice president of the National Council of Agricultural Employers, so he understands more than many just how critical it is to put party politics aside in order to come to a final agreement.
Despite his feelings on the president taking executive action, he expressed relief upon hearing that after decades, a decision had finally been made. “I think if he hadn’t done anything and told Congress, ‘bring me something in six months,’ [Congress would] still be all up in arms,” said Leitz.
Most of what I’ve learned about immigration policy I’ve learned within the last several years talking to growers, and from what I’ve observed, it’s a complex issue that won’t take a one size fits all approach.
Different industries have different needs regarding labor, and agriculture should receive the specific attention it deserves in order to develop policies that suit it best.
Whether or not you agree with his actions or side with him politically, President Obama took what he saw as Congresses’ inability to act, and used it as an opportunity to draft a plan that has been sorely needed for years.
In the spirit of working together to achieve a common goal, maybe we should ditch the “left vs. right” mentality we’ve let delay the decision-making process. There’s still a long way to go until we finalize a plan that satisfies agriculture’s labor needs, but in the meantime, it can’t hurt to try a new approach and push politics aside.