After much work, an important step toward revamping America’s failed immigration system and securing our porous border has been achieved. A strong and focused policy proposal for border security and legal workforce reform was adopted by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) at its annual meeting in Des Moines, Iowa.
As chairman of NASDA's Border Security and Immigration Reform Task Force, I have worked closely with my fellow state commissioners, secretaries and directors of agriculture from all over the country to put forth a plan Congress can work with to address serious issues in providing a documented and reliable workforce for agriculture producers while addressing the needs of those producers being threatened on their land by transnational criminal organizations.
More than a year ago, I authored a proposal and we have had numerous fruitful debates and discussions on what needs to be done. The give and take in the process resulted in a proposal that will not only sustain our domestic food supply, but also will help America stay competitive in the global marketplace by employing a legal, reliable workforce.
A point I pushed is that granting amnesty to workers who have entered the United States illegally is not the solution. In contrast, our proposal will continue to support our nation’s longstanding pathway to legal citizenship only for those who have chosen to follow the rules.
Congress has failed our economy by allowing the issue of legal workforce reform to be caught up in and delayed by a debate over citizenship. Citizenship is a privilege that is afforded to individuals who follow the rules of a long-defined process. If those individuals are workers who have accessed this country legally, then we welcome their participation in that process. But hear me clearly: Documenting the workforce needed by our businesses has nothing to do with citizenship, and everything to do with protecting our economy.
That’s why our plan also provides the workforce needed to maintain our status as a world leader in agricultural production. It calls for more thorough worker background checks and ongoing identification monitoring while also levying harsher penalties for hiring violations and illegal entry. Our porous border with Mexico has exacerbated the problem of illegal immigration and workforce violations for far too long. Border security can be greatly expedited by legal workforce reform and done in a manner that strengthens border security. Local law enforcement resources are consumed by the violent drug cartels and illegal entries for jobs, and a verifiable documentation system for workers our economy demands will help.
While the ongoing failure of our federal government to secure our border has been a point of frustration for me and many others, it’s validating and reassuring to know immigration reform is a matter all 50 states take seriously. Now with a unified voice, we can urge Congress to take action to implement these critical reforms.
To read the approved immigration reform plan, go here.