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- 06-15-2012, 07:38 AM #1
Texas Commish Pleads For Immigration Reform
Texas commish pleads for immigration reform
By Jason Buch
Updated 11:23 p.m., Thursday, June 14, 2012
A call for immigration reform by Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and his counterparts nationwide is the latest sign that the issue again is receiving serious consideration.
Staples, a Republican, is spearheading the proposal by agriculture commissioners from 15 southern states and territories that asks for more legal workers and a path to “conditional status” for illegal immigrants. The group includes Alabama and Georgia, whose agriculture industries have suffered labor shortages in the wake of stringent immigration laws.
The Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture is asking for increased border security and improved methods to verify workers' legal status. But it's also calling for immediately expanding guest worker programs and making it easier for immigrants to obtain visas.
“If we do not have the necessary workforce, our agricultural economy suffers,” Staples said.
Staples chaired a committee for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture to develop an immigration and border security policy. The results were ratified by the southern states this week and will be presented later this year to the national group and eventually Congress, he said.
The agricultural industry, with its need for cheap, seasonal labor, historically has relied on foreign labor, much of it from illegal immigrants, said Pia Orrenius, assistant vice president and senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Existing temporary worker programs often are costly and difficult to use, Orrenius said.
“On top of these programs becoming more difficult to use and fewer workers qualifying under those programs, we also have workers that have been scared away by some of the state initiatives, like in Alabama and Georgia,” she said.
For J Carnes, owner and president of Winter Garden Produce in Uvalde, Staples' proposal is welcome. With the Eagle Ford Shale eating up unskilled labor in the area, it's hard to find people wanting to pick vegetables for $8 to $12 an hour, Carnes said.
“The channels that we have set up right now ... for agricultural workers just cannot meet the long-term goals of what agricultural needs are,” Carnes said.
Along with the recent change in the state Republican Party's stance on immigration that says deporting an estimated 11 million immigrants would be neither “equitable nor practical,” the agriculture commissioners' proposal shows that reform could be back on the table, said Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, whom Staples will face in the 2014 GOP primary for lieutenant governor, was a major backer of the change to the party platform, which also calls for a guest worker program.
President Barack Obama unveiled an immigration plan last year in El Paso that among other things called for a path to legal status for those here illegally with many of the same provisions that Staples is endorsing.
But immigration reform hasn't received much traction in a sharply divided Congress. Cuellar said he has talked to Republican representatives from Texas who said they'd be willing to address the issue next year after the presidential election.
“Just the fact that (Staples) opened up the door and is willing to talk about it is very good,” Cuellar said. “And hopefully, he can convince his Republican colleagues in Washington to work with us.”
House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, last year introduced legislation that puts guest worker programs under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, allows 500,000 temporary workers into the country and is intended to streamline visas. But he balked at the idea of offering status to those here illegally.
“History has proved that granting amnesty to illegal immigrants will only encourage more illegal immigration,” Smith said.
“In 1986, a fraud-ridden mass amnesty was given to 3 million illegal immigrants, but today we have an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living here.”
Staples said he doesn't want the U.S. to grant amnesty. Immigrants in the country should be able to pay a fine, undergo a background check and start working and paying taxes, he said. Whether they can become citizens is a separate debate, Staples said.
“No immigration policy will be complete without addressing the problem of the millions of illegal workers in the U.S. today,” he said. “Two key points must be considered: First, offering amnesty would only act as an additional incentive to circumvent our laws; and second, no one should want a government big enough to round up that many people.”
He also addressed an issue that has stalled changes to the immigration system: insistence by some Republicans that the U.S. increase border security before tackling reform.
“We believe that securing our border will be enhanced by providing a legal system to provide workers,” Staples said. “We believe this will go a long way toward securing our border and freeing up our law enforcement personnel who are stopping both drug cartel members and those seeking jobs.”
Read more: Texas commish pleads for immigration reform - San Antonio Express-NewsThe price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men. Plato
- 06-15-2012, 12:45 PM #2
- Join Date
- Apr 2012
Is'nt it farm labor that lead us into the border problems that exist today?? America has not broke it's addiction to cheap labor exchanged for cheap food.