COMMISSIONER STAPLES AND 15 SOUTHERN STATES LEAD NATIONAL IMMIGRATION REFORM
Plan first introduced a year ago is now obtaining national support
AUSTIN — Citing the critical need for a United States-based food supply, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and leading agriculture producing states are calling for sweeping immigration reform and enhanced border security measures that would provide for a legal workforce.
“Our current immigration system has failed the consumer and our economy, and must be corrected,” Commissioner Staples said. “America cannot maintain its competitiveness without a legal, reliable workforce and this demands immediate immigration structure reform.”
After working with agriculture departments from across the nation for more than a year, the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture (SASDA) adopted a plan for immigration reform. The Border Security and Legal Workforce Reform policy, originally authored by Commissioner Staples, was approved this week by SASDA members. The group – composed of commissioners, secretaries and directors of agriculture from 15 southern U.S. states and two territories − held its annual meeting this week in South Carolina.
“No immigration policy will be complete without addressing the problem of the millions of illegal workers in the U.S. today,” Commissioner Staples said. “Two key points must be considered: First, offering amnesty would only act as an additional incentive to circumvent our laws; and second, no one should want a government big enough to round up that many people.”
Commissioner Staples’ leadership on immigration and border issues led the National Association of State Departments (NASDA) to designate him chairman of a task force to develop an immigration and border security policy. The adoption of the policy by SASDA is the next step toward the anticipated reform of NASDA’s policy guidance to Congress on border security and workforce. Passage of the policy amendment signals a significant reform for the group, which advocates for the agricultural industry at the federal level.
“We should recognize we have a current and longstanding pathway to citizenship, it is legal immigration,” Commissioner Staples said. “Our federal government has failed at securing our border and providing a legal workforce. Mixing citizenship with legal workforce reform is an affront to the many new Americans who followed our laws and obtained legal citizenship. It simply sends the wrong message to suggest our country isn't serious about fixing this problem once and for all.”
“By passage of a resolution put forth by Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples and passed unanimously by its members at its recent annual meeting, the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture addressed worker availability for agricultural producers across the United States,” said South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture and President of SASDA Hugh E. Weathers. “By this action, SASDA affirms its desire to be a part of finding a solution to this pressing challenge.”
“Resolving our guest labor dilemma is an urgent need of all of American agricultural producers,” said Brad Bouma with Select Milk Producers. “The consumer is the ultimate loser if we have to depend on foreign food supplies.” Select Milk has been representing milk producers in Texas and New Mexico, who have been working for workforce and immigration reform in Washington D.C.
Key provisions of the policy include:
- The failed Work Visa system must be changed immediately.
- Rather than amnesty, Congress should implement a Penalty-Not-Pardon policy for persons without proper authorization to live and work in the United States.
- Existing persons without authorization to live and work in the United States should first obtain a conditional status with the following strict requirements:
o Come forward, fully report and pay a considerable and just fine;
o Demonstrate verifiable employment or be currently enrolled in a qualified post-secondary training program or higher education institution;
o Submit to a criminal background check
- The federal government should ensure adequate infrastructure is in place along the U.S. border to facilitate the legal movement of people and goods at international ports of entry.
- Employers and businesses should have access to an improved E-Verify, or comparable identification system that is reliable; available for preclearance of new applicants; and able to reduce burdens on employers and their role in enforcing immigration laws.
- Citizenship requirements should not be changed.
The Border Security and Legal Workforce Reform policy proposal will be considered by the full NASDA delegation this fall. To read the full policy plan click here.