U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (NC) today announced her support for the Senate's bipartisan immigration reform legislation that would secure the borders, boost North Carolina's economy, especially in the high-tech and agriculture sectors, and reduce the federal deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next two decades.
"Our immigration system is badly broken and in need of serious reform. After listening to a wide variety of stakeholders in North Carolina, it became clear that supporting this bill is the right decision for our state," Hagan said. "Throughout this process, I have talked with North Carolinians about their priorities and concerns. I've met with business owners, farmers, faith leaders, representatives of our high-tech sector, and a variety of other stakeholders, and after all of these discussions, I support the bill because it will secure our borders, boost our economy and reduce our deficit, ensure our continued global competitiveness, and fix the system so that everyone plays by the same rules."
Strong Border Security Protections
Hagan heard from North Carolinians from every corner of the state who said tough and strong border security protections must be part of the bill. Strong border security provisions that help to solve this problem once and for all were critical for Hagan as she reviewed the legislation, and the passage of the bipartisan Hoeven-Corker amendment greatly strengthened the bill.
The Hoeven-Corker amendment will stem the flow of illegal crossings by doubling to 40,000 the number of border patrol agents, building 700 miles of fencing, and using high tech tools to patrol the border. It also expands the entry/exit visa system at airports and seaports to better track who is in the country and requires all businesses to use an employment verification system within five years to ensure everyone competes on a level playing field.
A Boost for North Carolina's Economy
North Carolina's agriculture sector represents a $77 billion industry that could expand to $100 billion with the enactment of the Senate's commonsense immigration legislation, according to the North Carolina Farm Bureau, which supports the bill and its agriculture provisions.
"Farmers in North Carolina and across the country face a critical lack of workers, making our operations less competitive with foreign producers. Securing a reliable and skilled workforce is essential for North Carolina's agriculture sector and the wider U.S. economy," Larry Wooten, President of the North Carolina Farm Bureau, wrote in a letter to Hagan. "We strongly support this bill and enlist your help for US agriculture."
The high-tech industry also supports the legislation because it will allow more high-skilled workers to remain in the country and boost North Carolina's economy.
"The North Carolina Technology Association, which represents the tech sector in our state, supports the immigration reform effort," said Brooks Raiford, President and CEO of North Carolina Technology Association (NCTA). "Bear in mind that over 100,000 North Carolinians work in information technology (IT) and engineering jobs in companies and organizations of all types. These workers have higher-than-average wages and face lower-than-average unemployment. Attracting highly-skilled foreign workers to supplement the talented domestic workforce is crucial to fueling the economy in our region and nationally," he added.
"In the Raleigh and Research Triangle market a diverse employment base is critical to economic success and job creation," said Harvey Schmitt, President and CEO of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. "The bi-partisan S. 744 fixes our broken immigration system and addresses critical business priorities for Green Card and Temporary Work Visa reform. We applaud Senator Hagan for supporting this practical and urgently needed legislation."
"The University of North Carolina Board of Governors supports immigration reform that enables expedient, cost-effective recruitment of international faculty, international graduate students in STEM fields, and international students in health professions," said the UNC Board of Governors.
"Sensible immigration reform is in the best interest of our state and its economic future," said Lynn Minges, President and CEO of the NC Restaurant and Lodging Association. "The North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association applauds Senator Hagan for embracing federal immigration reform as a means of helping to supply a workforce to support our state's $18.8 billion industry. Finding workers to meet the growing job demands or restaurants and hotels in our state has proven to be particularly challenging in recent years."
The bill will also reduce the federal deficit by $160 billion over 10 years and by more than $700 billion in the following decade.
Everyone Plays by the Same Rules
The legislation would fix the broken immigration system and require undocumented immigrants to pay back taxes and penalties, learn English, pass background checks, and go to the back of the line before becoming eligible for temporary status. Hagan believes that North Carolina's middle class will be stronger when everyone is playing by the same rules.
Hagan hopes the Senate will vote on several of her amendments that have not received votes due to procedural wrangling. One of her amendments would assist local law enforcement agencies with the purchase of bulletproof vests for officers on the street and help state and local law enforcement to increase border security by preventing crime, promoting public safety and prosecuting criminals. Hagan also hoped to have a vote on her bipartisan AMERICA Works Act, a commonsense and bipartisan jobs bill to help address the skills gap and ensure that workers are being trained for jobs that are available now.