There is much disappointment over President Obama’s decision to delay promised administrative changes to immigration policy until after November’s mid-term election. Millions of undocumented workers will continue to live in the shadows, farms and businesses that depend on immigrant labor will face ongoing uncertainty about the availability of labor, and young people brought here as children still won’t know whether they will be able to stay to work and raise families (and pay taxes) over the long term.
Still, the President had a point. Anything he might attempted by way of common sense reform at this point would have fired up the Tea Party, already crying for impeachment, and might have cost the Democrats the Senate. If that happened, politicians would have been afraid to go near the issue for years to come.
Before we blame President Obama for the absence of immigration reform, let’s ask where the blame really lies. The answer is clear: it lies with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where New York’s 23rd is represented by Republican Tom Reed.
The Senate passed a major immigration reform bill, S. 744, in June 2013. The bill was resulted from legislators doing what they ought to do: hammer out compromises to deal with the problems that face the nation. It would commit additional resources to border security, while creating a “tough but fair” legalization process for those who are already here. It incorporates the DREAM Act, and would make it easier for highly skilled individuals, educated in the United States, to remain.
If Speaker Boehner had allowed this bill to come before the House, it would almost certainly have passed with the support nearly all Democrats and some Republicans. But ever anxious to appease the Tea Party, Boehner refused to permit a vote.
Does immigration reform matter to New York’s 23rd? Martha Robertson, who is challenging Reed, has traveled the district tirelessly and reports that Red Jacket Orchards’ strawberry crop has plummeted 75 per cent over the past two years due to a labor shortage. Vineyard owners never know if they are going to be able to find enough workers to keep the vines trimmed, and other farmers face labor shortages and labor uncertainty as well. S. 744 would create a “blue card” for undocumented agricultural workers who have worked at least 100 days over a two-year period, allowing them to remain. This provision would give both workers and farmers much-needed assurance of workforce stability.
Cornell and other colleges and universities in or near the district graduate many foreign students every year who are highly qualified in science, technology, engineering, and medicine. Imagine how much the district would benefit if these productive young people were able to remain. The president of the University of Massachusetts maintains that they should have green cards stapled to their diplomas, but this won’t happen without immigration reform.
Immigration reform would be good for our district’s economy and good for the economy of the nation. That’s one more reason to help turn the Republicans out of the House by voting for Martha Robertson on November 4.