By USDA Secretary Vilsack
WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 2, 2013) — A report released this week by the White House economic team shows the benefits of commonsense immigration reform for rural America.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate passed a commonsense immigration reform measure in a strongly bipartisan fashion. The Senate plan provides a pathway to earned citizenship for those who are in our country without authorization. They will have to go to the back of the line, pay fines and settle taxes they owe our nation. It would also put in place the toughest border security plan that America has ever seen.
This bill is important for rural America. Our farmers and ranchers are the most productive on earth, but too many are struggling to hire the workers they need. A broken immigration system creates uncertainty for farmers and farm workers alike, threatening our ability to produce and export more in the coming years. The report released by the White House economic team shows that without a stable workforce, America’s record agricultural productivity will decline in coming years.
The Senate bill addresses this concern by taking much-needed steps to ensure a stable agricultural workforce, and a fair system for U.S. producers and farm workers. In particular, it would give qualifying farm workers an expedited path to earned citizenship, as long as they continue to work in agriculture. A new temporary worker program would replace the current H-2A visa program over time, and allow farm workers a three-year visa to work year-round in any agricultural job.
This commonsense system wouldn’t just prevent a decline in production – it would grow the economy. Research highlighted in the White House report projects that an expanded temporary worker program would increase both production and exports across our agriculture sector. In the coming years, this would generate billions of dollars in economic benefits for our nation and create tens of thousands of new jobs.
Meanwhile, fixing our broken immigration system would strengthen our nation’s finances. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that the Senate bill would reduce the deficit over the next 20 years by nearly $850 billion, and the Social Security Administration estimates that this immigration bill would add nearly $300 billion to the Social Security system in the next decade.
This week’s White House report lays out the many benefits for rural America of immigration reform – from a stable workforce for agriculture, to stronger exports and more good jobs in our small towns.
To remain competitive and keep driving economic growth in rural America, we need rules that work. Rural America needs Congress to act as soon as possible to carry forward the work of the U.S. Senate and fix today’s broken immigration system.