Guest Opinion: Immigration reform would benefit Idaho businesses


July 9, 2014 

The number of American-born workers willing and able to accept temporary, labor-intensive farm jobs is also shrinking. Addressing labor challenges is increasingly difficult when faced with an inaccessible guest worker visa program. The program is expensive and forces farmers to apply to multiple federal agencies, so many simply forgo the option entirely.

Streamlining the process will drive job creation in Idaho. A recent PNAE study found that visas authorized in 2011 supported more than 5,800 jobs in Idaho. Providing a practical and workable process for farmers operating small- and medium-sized farms would substantially increase the number of jobs available to Idaho natives.

Reforming our inefficient immigration policies will provide substantial Idaho industries with the capability of meeting growing labor demands. Meaningful immigration reform that creates a market-based system for employers will create jobs in Idaho and grow our state's economy.

In conjunction with the national day of action, the Partnership for a New American Economy, the Business Roundtable, and the National Association of Manufacturers have released polling that shows 69 percent of voters in Idaho disagree with Congress' excuse of inaction due to concerns over the administration's enforcement of immigration law. Even more telling, 89 percent of voters believe the system needs to be fixed, with four out of five believing that Congress should act on reform this year.

We urge you to join us today in a national day of action. Congress must pass substantive immigration reform this year.

We ask you to contact the Idaho congressional delegation and let them know that their constituents demand that they support substantive reform this year. Failure to do so would be a disservice to Idaho.

Brent Olmstead is president at Milk Producers of Idaho and is the executive director of the Idaho Business Coalition for Immigration Reform.

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