Inside Opinion

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Tag: immigration reform

May
28th

Farming: Poster child for immigration reform

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Despite all the complaints about partisan gridlock in Congress, Senate Republicans have joined Democrats to produce an artfully negotiated immigration reform package.

The country needs this legislation — but that doesn’t guarantee it will clear the House. Hard-line Republicans in that chamber are still grumping about amnesty and demanding a hermetically sealed border before they’ll consider giving some kind of legal status to the estimated 11 million people living in this country illegally.

There’s common ground to build on, though: Even in the House, many Republicans recognize the need to legalize the status of the workers who harvest crops, slaughter livestock, cultivate nurseries and otherwise keep American agriculture in business.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, roughly half of America’s farm labor force is illegal. Washington – one of the nation’s leading farm states – is especially dependent on unauthorized workers.

At least two-thirds of the people who harvest this state’s apples, cherries, grapes and pears could theoretically be deported. In other words, enforcing the current law would destroy entire industries — proof that the law has to be adjusted to reality.

At some point in the near future, even nonfarmers are going to realize what a godsend those workers are. Mexico — where most illegal farm labor comes from — is getting wealthier and exporting fewer low-wage laborers. Harvesting is backbreaking work; even in the Great Recession, few unemployed Americans from other industries were willing to endure it.

A country looking at a scarcity of farm workers had best figure out how to hang on to them. Threatening to kick them out is not the way to do it.
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Jan.
28th

Immigration reform finally gets a political opening

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

The political ice jam that’s been blocking immigration reform may have broken at last.

On Monday, key Republican senators joined key Democratic senators in announcing a plan for dealing with America’s long-festering illegal immigration problem.

The endorsement of Marco Rubio of Florida is especially promising: At the moment, at least, he’s the Republican Party’s strongest presidential prospect for 2016, and he carries considerable weight in the party.

The sound you don’t hear (so far) is a chorus of firebrands shouting “No amnesty!” or “What part of illegal do you not understand?” Mantras like that have helped kill past efforts to legalize the millions of undocumented immigrants who are firmly rooted in the United States and aren’t going away.

Many of them have broken no law since entering the country and have children who are U.S. citizens. Some American farmers – especially Washington orchardists – can’t get their crops harvested without illegal labor.

There’s no conceivable scenario under which as many as 11 million illegal immigrants could be forced out of the country. But the status quo is intolerable. The only solution lies in letting the honest majority of them emerge from the shadows – without creating a grand incentive for further illegal immigration.
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