Comprehensive Immigration Reform is Needed to Control our Borders and Provide Economic Stability to Eastern Washington
December 12, 2005
(Washington, DC) -- What has made America great have been the opportunities given to everyone in this country. Since our founding, individuals and families have come to America to seek freedom, opportunity and the choice for a better life.
Everywhere I travel throughout Eastern Washington, I hear from people demanding we do a better job of controlling our borders and reducing illegal immigration. This past year, my office helped with nearly 150 immigration cases. It has become increasingly difficult for those who would like to enter our country legally and choose to obey law to do so. For example, one family went through a 17-year process before they were allowed to come over legally. We must find a way to have responsive and legal immigration for those who desire to come.
In Congress my priorities include growing our economy and keeping our nation and community safe. In my opinion, this includes a comprehensive immigration policy that addresses the growing problems related to illegal immigration but also ensures that our efforts do not unduly hurt our local and national economy.
This week the House will vote on legislation to improve our immigration system. The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 will bolster our border security, increase interior enforcement efforts, crack down on human trafficking, and reestablish respect for current immigration laws.
While this is an important component, any comprehensive immigration bill must take into account our national and regional economy, which must have the workforce to meet the demands in agriculture and other service industries. Agriculture is the number one industry in Washington State, producing thousands of jobs and over $1 billion in revenue for Eastern Washington. Our farmers help supply the country with a safe and stable food supply and they must have enough workers.
The agriculture industry in Washington is currently experiencing overall labor shortages. When I visited Crane and Crane Orchards last month in Brewster, I learned that labor shortages are hurting their business. This year alone, over 80,000 boxes worth of apples were left on the trees because they didn't have enough labor; they needed over 300 pickers. They are experiencing labor shortages despite the fact that they pay between 10 to 12 dollars an hour and provide housing to their workers. They couldn't find workers anywhere.
As Congress proceeds with immigration reform, Eastern Washington's agriculture and service related industries need to address the impact of these policy changes on their workforce. We need to keep our economy and workforce competitive in the 21st century by establishing a legal workforce. A comprehensive immigration bill must take into account potential impacts on our workers, their families and the overall economy.
Immigration is a complex problem, with no easy solution or quick fix. Controlling our borders is an important first step, but we cannot stop there. Immigration reform will not be complete until we can adequately resolve the labor needs of our agriculture community. As we continue to update and improve our immigration laws, it is important that we retain our compassionate and welcoming system that defines who we are as Americans.