Leaders in agriculture who have worked on immigration reform questioned Monday what actions the Obama administration might take on its own.
President Barack Obama saidon Monday that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has made it clear there would be no vote on the House floor this year on immigration reform. Boehner is suing the president, claiming he is exceeding his authority through a series of executive actions.
Yet, Obama declared he would again use executive action to address immigration reform.
Tom Nassif, president and CEO for Western Growers, was among a group of business leaders who met with Vice President Joe Biden on immigration reform last week. Nassif said Biden indicated the president would use executive orders to help with immigration challenges, but did not indicate how the president would act. Nassif noted the business leaders were not asked what they would like to see done.
"This leads to the conclusion that the president must have some sense of the policies he intends to pursue by administrative action and that those policies are being developed, at least so far, without meaningful input from industry representatives," Nassif noted in a statement Monday.
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Nassif said refusal to move a bill in the House "puts all U.S. industries, especially agriculture, in a desperate situation."
Nassif noted that the American public, including Republicans, back immigration reform, which would help the economy. Nassif chastised Boehner for refusing to take action. Nassif questioned the "lack of trust" argument used against the president by pointed out "he will not be president when most of an immigration reform law would be implemented in 2017 or after."
Nassif added, "I am confident there are reasonable women and men in both parties who could come to an agreement if that were their desire. The question is why aren’t they allowed to?"
Western Growers mainly represents major fruit and vegetable growers in California and Arizona.
Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, also expressed disappointment over Boehner's position and the moves by the president.
“Any executive action that the President takes on immigration will not adequately solve agriculture’s problems in finding a legal, skilled and dependable workforce now or in the future; the President admitted as much in his remarks today," Conner said. "Executive action will only freeze in place the current dysfunctional state of affairs. Farmers will continue to be unable to find the workers they need to pick crops or care for livestock; more food production will go overseas; local economies across the country will suffer; and the American consumer will ultimately pay more for the food they eat.
Farm groups joined together in 2012 to present a united front to lawmakers for a policy solution with the creation of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition. The coalition has pushed for not only legalizing farm workers now in the country illegally, but also reform the guest-worker program for agriculture to allow longer stays and make it easier for farmers to participate in the agricultural guest-worker program.
The U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill on a 68-32 vote a year ago.
Chris Clayton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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