Ditch Party Politics To Move Forward With Immigration Reform [Opinion]

Ditch Party Politics To Move Forward With Immigration Reform [Opinion]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.

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Avatar for Bill Rice Bill Rice says:

Ms. Alexander: You dealt with only the employer side of the issue and forgot to recognize our critical national security requirements on our southern border. We do NOT know who is, or who will be, coming across that border, and it is insecure now. Moreover, if we do not secure it, we will have the rest of poor, needy, uneducated, unprepared Mexico and Central America citizens, and probably spies and terrorists, crossing it too. We will face the same immigration problem again in 5-10 years. The strongest drug cartels seem to have marginalized Mexican government actions against them. What would Mexico’s local officials do when faced with the millions, if not billions, of dollars and proven appetite for unspeakable murderous assaults possessed by ISIS terrorists? If you think other than take the money, fold their tents and look the other way, you are naive beyond belief. The only card the House holds to push for border security is to prevent broad amnesty in the near term, and force the debate to address border security. Border security is the paramount issue, but it could pale to the eventual cost of making our nation a socialist country, an economic system that has failed miserably wherever it has been tried (with the notable exception of Scandinavian societies with their strict immigration policies and relatively homogeneous populations.

Avatar for Bruce MacDonald Bruce MacDonald says:

As a fruit grower with small acreage, I don’t have labor problems anything like large farms. This problem has been in the making for decades while all of you stuck your heads in the sand. The american public wants the border closed first then worry about immigration. Mechanical harvesting needs to be a reality soon. Figure it out and quit trying to rely on cheap labor.

Avatar for David Weber David Weber says:

Any kind of reform will have to have some sort of mechanism for identifying (documenting) the undocumented. That goes a long way towards solving immigration and law enforcement problems that cannot be solved without it. We have already enacted more stringent border controls. How much will be enough? The insistence that for any immigration policy to be enacted we ‘close the border’ ensures that no policy will ever be enacted. It will remain a poor excuse for doing nothing. Do you want to know who is here illegally? Adopt a policy that encourages those here illegally to be documented. With the documentation of those with verification of past work history in the US, new arrivals would be excluded. Ex Rep. Adam Putnam (R) FL now Commissioner of Ag in Florida wrote an Agjobs bill years ago that did just that and would have solved a lot of problems. It wasn’t supported. It should be resurrected.