Essential need for immigrant labor
Published: February 6, 2012 at 8:15 am
I wonder how long it will be before we can have a discussion of immigration and labor issues without it being closed off with the phrases of “border security” and “open border and cheap labor?”
Clearly, we have people in this state whose livelihood and security is threatened by border failures. Their pleas should not go unnoticed. One of the freedoms we work so hard for in other countries should have primacy here — freedom to be secure in place, person and family. It is an obligation of the federal government to secure our border.
As for the “open border” label, it is a political epithet intended to end discussion before it begins. Come on, who among the majority of reasonable people are advocating for open borders? And cheap labor is a myth; especially so to those who make payrolls.
Perhaps a more logical argument is that immigration and labor discussions should be delayed until the unemployment rate is decreased. But that is tempered by study after study showing that immigrants create jobs in this country — for the most part they are a complement. It is a fact that we have industries, including agriculture, that need workers with certain skills and appreciation for the work being offered. In this recession, with high unemployment, agriculture has scrambled to fill its jobs. Sure, technology will help, but this labor is needed into the foreseeable future and it can only be sourced from immigrant pools.
Also, the United States has great need for students with math, science, engineering and technical skills. We graduate a high percentage of foreign students and send them back to their countries.
Please show me the data that indicates this country can grow its economy without new seasonal and permanent legal immigrant workers.
And it does fit together. If we are serious about border security, wouldn’t we want to use all of the tools in our kit? Wouldn’t we want our visas to work smoothly (they don’t) to facilitate movement of legal labor back and forth across the border? But visa reform, as a complement to border security, does not seem to make it into reasonable debate.
The Arizona Accord is a statement of principles, the same as the Utah Compact. It does not propose specific action, but creates sideboards of respect for law, respect for individual and respect for principles of equality around immigration discussions. You may not accept any issues of immigration reform, but if you read the Arizona Accord it is hard to disagree with the principles embodied.
It seems like the right thing to do. The words we use reflect the attitudes we hold and convey. The Arizona Accord uses words that set high standards for practical and just solutions to meaningful immigration reform. You can see for yourself at www.azaccord.com. I encourage you to read these words, at least before you espouse a counter opinion.
And then hear these words: my industry and others need legal access to labor pools that are seasonal, short- and long-term. These pools will not be sourced from this country. This is an essential fact. You can tell me to pay more, to use convicts, to hire more students and you can tell me technology will solve my problems. In short, without respect or knowledge for my industry you can presume to tell me my business. Fine — we can debate all of this, but it won’t change the essential fact of a need for immigrant labor in Arizona and the rest of the country.
— Kevin Rogers is president of the Arizona Farm Bureau.