Idaho Ag leaders call for Immigration reform
BOISE- Idaho Ag leaders are calling for meaningful immigration reform in Congress saying President Trump’s anti-immigrant policies could hurt the state economy.
At a news conference at the Idaho Farm Bureau in Boise, leaders said that migrant workers account for hundreds of millions of dollars in the State Economy.
“Idaho’s economic vitality rides on the shoulders of the immigrant work force, many working in agriculture, that pay taxes,” said Bob Naerebout of the Idaho Dairymen of Idaho.
More than 8,000 immigrants work in the Dairy sector, which makes up 33% of all agri-business in the state. Naerebout blasted the administrations plan to deport workers saying it would be disastrous to the economy and rack up even more national debt.
“It costs between $11 and $22-thousand dollars to deport a single illegal worker, if theres 12-million illegals we’re looking at $150-billion to deport workers in this country, it’s fiscally irresponsible, yet its one of President Trumps campaign promises.” said Naerebout.
"Immigrants in Idaho pay more than $460 million in taxes every year," Naerebout says. "They have more than $1.5 billion in spending power and they’ve started 4,000 businesses in Idaho.” Including agriculture those businesses employ more than 14,000 people and affect every sector of Idaho’s economy.
Braden Jensen of the Idaho Farm Bureau said theres a sound economic solution: a year-round guest work visa program for workers.
"Operations like dairies require year-round labor and do not qualify for seasonal guest worker programs and of all the Ag sectors they’re hurting the worse, they need year-round Visas right now just to stay in business,” said Jensen.
By offering year-round visas to immigrant workers, leaders say we can fill employment vacancies in all of Idaho's largest industries, low paying jobs that get harder to fill with a shrinking work force.
"Many people's jobs stand on the shoulders of foreign-born labor," Naerebout said. "We should be building these people up. We should be looking at how we can help them in this country and how we move this country forward.”
Pastor Marc Schlegel-Preheim of the Hyde Park Mennonite fellowship got involved with the issue because this issue goes beyond political ideology.
“Millions of people are painfully caught in our broken immigration system, we have families that are pulled apart and some with different immigration status within their families. We encourage strong families as a nation but this immigration system is breaking up families and fear continues to grow. Congress needs to address immigration reform now,” said Schlegel Preheim.
All the leaders addressed concerns about immigrants diverting benefits from Americans saying that immigrants have paid $2 billion more into Medicare than they’ve drawn down.