Immigration reform is about both compassion and economic common sense. Many of our neighbors, friends, and people we interact with on a daily basis are immigrants. They work in many sectors of our economy and enrich our communities both culturally and economically.
In Iowa, and across the country, the immigrant population plays a vital role in one of the largest sectors of our economy. According to a report commissioned by the American Farm Bureau in 2014, there are approximately 6.7 million immigrants in the U.S. workforce who are considered undocumented. Of those 6.7 million individuals, an estimated 525,000 work in the Agricultural sector, or roughly 50% of the hired farm labor. Iowans, and people across the country, depend on the hard work of these immigrants to harvest our crops and provide food for our tables.
The Farm Bureau report estimates that if we were to implement drastic immigration policies we could see the deportation of millions of undocumented workers. This could result in an estimated 145% increase in the cost of farm labor. Increased labor cost would also potentially put farmers, who are unable to survive these added financial demands, out of business. Subsequently, to meet our domestic food needs, we would have to import large amounts of foreign grown produce.
Iowa farmers and consumers cannot afford the reckless positions on immigration that are currently espoused by people like Steve King. Crippling increases in the cost of labor and the associated increases in the cost of domestically produced food products will drive farmers out of the market and force consumers to purchase products produced outside the United States.
Kim proposes the following solutions:
- Develop a simplified, common sense work visa process that would adjust the status of individuals who are currently working in the U.S. This will allow undocumented workers who are currently working and paying their fair share to continue to do so. It will also allow those who are not currently contributing to begin paying taxes and paying into Social Security.
- Create policies that allow immigrants not currently in the United States to apply for and attain legal status in this country. Too many immigrants are forced to enter our country illegally due to the lack of policies and procedures for attaining legal status. Many immigrants put themselves in harms way to enter our borders because they are trying to provide for their families or escape the atrocities of their home countries. These policies will include additional investments in border security to screen out bad actors who attempt to enter the U.S. for purposes of criminal activity.
- Create a pathway for individuals who are actively trying to attain citizenship in this country, giving priority to individuals who are already in the process.
The issue of immigration reform has become very controversial. However, we must accept the fact that without common sense, comprehensive reform we are doing more harm than good to our local and national economies. We must move toward a realistic path towards citizenship that welcomes immigrants who are currently making positive contributions to our economy, identifies and punishes those who are not, and works to create policies that monitor immigrants who wish to enter the U.S. in the future.