Monday, July 29, 2013

White House Releases Report On Importance Of Immigration Reform For Rural Communities

"There is no excuse" for failure to pass comprehensive reform legislation, says Sec. Vilsack...
The White House on Monday issued a new report designed to bolster rural support for comprehensive immigration reform legislation.  Titled "Fixing Our Broken Immigration System: The Economic Benefits to Agriculture and Rural Communities," the report includes a chart highlighting the impact of immigration reform in all fifty states.  

"Among all economic sectors, the U.S. agriculture sector is particularly reliant on foreign-born workers," the White House said, noting that between 2007 and 2009, 71% of crop workers were "forign born."

"Agricultural producers cite difficulty in locating qualified available authorized workers—both foreign and domestic—as one reason for the high rate of undocumented labor," the White House said.

The report is "very, very important," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a conference call with reporters.

If the immigration system is not reformed, warned Vilsack, there will be reductions in agricultural production that "over time will put food security at risk."  And farmers in some areas have already reported that they have reduced production due to lack of labor, he said.

Vilsack noted that the report, available on both the White House and USDA websites, should be of interest to Members of the House of Representatives who are still considering immigration reform legislation. 

"It is up to the House to pass a comprehensive bill or a series of bills that would equate to a comprehensive bill," Vilsack said.

Vilsack noted that it is rare for a coalition backing legislation to be as broad as the one backing immigration reform, which includes the ALF-CIO, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, liberal groups and evangelical ministers.

"There is no excuse not to get it done,” Vilsack said.  

"It is time for the Republican leadership in the House to act to fix the broken immigration system in a way that requires responsibility from everyone--both from workers here illegally and from those who hire them — and guarantees that everyone is playing by the same rules," the White House said in a news release announcing the report.

Much of the report consists of data that has been previously released, but there are a number of new analytical points:

*Rising farm worker wages are a sign of labor scarcity.

*Farm and ranches that employ immigrants have a large impact on the rural economy because they buy fertilizer and seed, invest in farm machinery, contract the services of custom operators, and support the many local businesses that serve farms and farm families, including restaurants and retailers. High levels of production also benefit businesses like grain elevators, biofuel refineries, and processed food manufacturers.

*With a decline in the native-born population, rural communities are increasingly dependent on immigrants for growth.

*Trends in the agriculture sector--due in part to growing domestic demand for fresh fruit and vegetables year-round--indicate that farm workers are increasingly settling permanently in places where they previously worked temporarily, increasing consumer demand for all products and for homes.

*For rural communities struggling to attract new businesses and economic activity, the bipartisan Senate bill also reforms and makes permanent the EB-5 immigrant investor program that grants permanent resident status to foreigners who invest above a minimum threshold in new job-creating commercial enterprises in the United States.

*The Senate bill would help improve rural health care by making a number of improvements to the Conrad 30 program, which allows foreign-born medical doctors to waive certain residency requirement if these doctors choose to work in areas with special needs for at least three years.


Download:  The full White House report {PDF}