'Congress must enact meaningful immigration legislation,' says Nassif
The head of Western Growers has raised concerns over the potential consequences of President Obama's plans regarding immigration legislation on agriculture, urging Congress to take the opportunity to pass 'meaning' reform.
On Thursday night, Obama addressed tha nation announcing a series of executive actions including one to defer the deportation of more than four million undocumented immigrants.
Western Growers president and CEO Tom Nassif told www.freshfruitportal.com there were several factors to take into account when considering what impact the proposals would have on the U.S. agricultural industry.
"One, how many farmworkers would be included in the category that's been given deferred action for three years - we don't know what that number is. The White House is estimating numbers but nobody knows for sure," Nassif said.
"The second thing is what will that mean to the workers? Will they be willing to come out of the shadows and say 'okay, I'm here illegally and I want to be part of the deferred action for a couple of years, knowing that at the end of that time I may be deported because some other president may not sign the same kind of executive actions?'.
"We have to remember that when the president exercised his authority and created the deferred action for children, about half of them didn't even come forward and admit they were here illegally for fear that it was a temporary fix and they didn't want it known that they were here illegally."
Nassif also raised the point that if many immigrants working in agriculture were suddenly given the right to work in any job they wanted, they may well migrate to another industry.
Other sectors may be more attractive places to work for immigrants as they wouldn't have to constantly relocate from area to area following the crops, and more secure jobs could offer a range of additional benefits.
While many in the Republican party have questioned the legality of Obama's proposals, Nassif stressed that nothing would be achieved by constantly being at ends with one another.
"We ask the Republicans, 'rather than use this as a reason to be uncooperative in the future on issues important to this country including immigration, use it as a stimulus to reassert your congressional authority and pass this bill yourselves regardless of what the president has done'," Nassif said.
"Once an immigration bill is passed and signed into law, the executive word comes by the wayside.
"They need to go back to the drawing boards and start either with a blank sheet of paper or start with the kinds of immigration reform they have been talking about in the committee meetings, and get to the job of creating a new immigration bill that they think will get some bipartisan support and be signed by the president."
Nassif added it didn't do the industry any good to pass legislation that was later vetoed, nor to pass legislation that couldn't get out of the Senate because of the parliamentary procedure called a filibuster.
"So it has to be very thoughtful, and there are many members of the legislature who are very thoughtful and want to pursue a legislative fix that is reasonable for all parties and beneficial to this country," he said.