White House: US agriculture sector ‘particularly reliant on foreign-born workers’

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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The White House claimed in a statement Monday that the U.S. agriculture sector relies on foreign-born workers rather than U.S.-born workers.

“Currently the agriculture industry is hampered by a broken immigration system that fails to support a predictable and stable workforce,” the White House wrote.

The solution, according to the report, is Senate’s “Gang of Eight” immigration bill, which would legalize 1.5 million farm workers and thus improve the U.S. economy. The Congressional Budget Office released an estimate on the number of farm workers legalized in mid-June.

The White House released a new report at 2 p.m. Monday entitled, “Fixing Our Broken Immigration System,” which makes the economic case for sweeping immigration reform, like the kind outlined in the Senate’s Gang of Eight bill, which could lead to legal status for 32 million immigrants over the next decade and could grant work visas to an additional 25 million people, according to a recent analysis released by Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions.

“Among all economic sectors, the U.S. agriculture sector is particularly reliant on foreign-born workers. Agricultural producers cite difficulty in locating qualified available authorized workers — both foreign and domestic — as one reason for the high rate of undocumented labor,” according to Monday’s White House statement, released against the backdrop of a 7.6 percent national unemployment rate.

“If enacted, the Senate bill would provide a path to earned citizenship for undocumented farmworkers that includes paying a fine, their full share of taxes and is estimated to allow an estimated 1.5 million agricultural workers and their dependents to earn a legal status, and eventually citizenship,” according to the White House statement, which notes that the Gang of Eight bill is “largely consistent with the President’s principles for commonsense immigration reform.”

Immigration reform is a top priority for the Obama administration in its second-term policy push, according to an outline of the administration’s agenda prepared by the Obama-aligned advocacy group Organizing for Action.

Though the bipartisan Gang of Eight senators are appealing to House Republicans to pass their bill and send it along to the White House to be signed into law, Republican House Speaker John Boehner has no stated intention of passing the legislation.

“The House will not take up the Senate immigration bill. There are many issues related to immigration reform on which the business community, religious groups and House Republicans can find common ground, but advocating for the House consideration of the Senate immigration bill is simply a waste of their time and resources,” said a Republican House leadership aide.

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