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Idaho Industries Pay the Price of Our Broken Immigration System

Idaho Industries Pay the Price of Our Broken Immigration System

By Congressman Mike Simpson

Washington, D.C. – "Congress has an opportunity to make meaningful and needed change in securing our borders while at the same time delivering the workforce Idaho’s farmers desperately need.  These changes need to go hand in hand.  Failing to secure our borders leaves American families abandoned to the threats of drug trafficking and terrorism that have increased since President Biden took office.  Failing to undertake comprehensive immigration reform leaves farmers without a secure and legal workforce and distracts border patrol agents from tackling the real threats to our security.  Idaho families, farmers, and communities face the consequences of failing to address these problems every day, and we must find the political courage to make real, lasting change on border security and immigration reform.

"Securing our borders must be the first thing we tackle.  We must, for example, stop the flow of fentanyl and other dangerous substances into our country.  The Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has seized over 14,000 pounds of fentanyl coming across the southwest border—enough to kill 3.1 billion people—and yet this deadly drug continues to pour into our country.  Idahoans are living out the terrible consequences of our failure to secure the border.  I was heartbroken to learn recently about a family in Lewiston who lost their son after he purchased what he thought was OxyContin from an unknown source.  The pill turned out to contain enough fentanyl to kill six people.  I wish this story was an outlier, but similar stories of young people dying from accidental fentanyl overdose have become tragically common.  In Idaho, the number of overdose deaths involving fentanyl has doubled in the past year.

"We can’t sit by while young people die and communities are torn apart with grief.  That’s why I recently supported H.R. 2, Secure the Border Act, which strengthens our borders and closes existing loopholes in President Biden’s ineffective immigration policies.  Among other things, H.R. 2 would increase the number of Border Patrol agents and deploy stronger border security technology.  The failure of President Biden and Democrats to act on these issues has left Americans less secure.

"Failure to act on comprehensive immigration reform, however, continues to leave Idaho’s agriculture, construction, hospitality, medical and countless other industries less secure.  The consequences of our broken immigration system are felt every day by Idaho employers who cannot find a legal workforce willing to do the jobs that keep their businesses and our economy running. 

"Nowhere is this truer than in agriculture.  We may not like to admit it, but most Americans are simply unwilling to harvest crops by hand or milk cows every day.  As a result, Idaho farmers have had to rely on an immigrant workforce for decades.  But because our immigration system doesn’t work, they face a growing workforce crisis that is crippling our state’s valuable agriculture industry.  The current H-2A guestworker program is costly and cumbersome, and it is not even available to whole swaths of the agriculture sector, like the dairy industry. 

"In fact, Idaho’s dairy industry provides us with a good example of how crucial immigration reform is for our state’s economy.  Ninety percent of Idaho’s dairy workers are foreign-born.  These are good paying jobs—higher than anything you would find on the main street of your local community—but domestic workers simply won’t take them.  Without access to a visa program that connects them with a legal workforce, Idaho dairymen are stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Idaho’s dairy producers have countless stories about good, loyal workers they have employed for years who have been valuable in helping them build their businesses, only to find out that they are here without legal status when their employee is deported after a traffic stop or some other interaction with law enforcement.  No one wins in this situation—the dairy loses a valuable employee, and Idaho loses a valued member of the community who pays taxes, goes to church on Sunday, spends their earnings locally, and does their best to be a good member of society.  No one benefits from our failure to fix our broken immigration system.

"This is why I worked to ensure that H.R. 2 includes language protecting American farmers by giving three years before e-verify requirements are imposed on our agriculture communities.  This gives us time to do the critical work of providing a stable, secure, and legal agriculture workforce, which I have spearheaded for the past several years.  In this work, I have collaborated with Idaho producers and others to create the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA), which provides real solutions to the workforce crisis facing agriculture.  Not only will the FWMA provide a stable workforce for our farmers and bring workers who have been contributing to our economy for years out of the shadows to get right with the law, but it will help stem the flow of illegal immigration so that border patrol can focus on stopping terrorists and drug traffickers from bringing their deadly wares across our borders.  What is more, I believe it can be a model for the long overdue larger immigration reforms for which the American people have been demanding for decades.

"Securing our borders and reforming our immigration system are difficult and complex and won’t be resolved without courage in Congress and a commitment among all parties to find a solution.  But Idahoans will continue to face the consequences of our broken immigration system until we are willing to do the hard work needed to secure our borders and provide a comprehensive, permanent, and legal solution to fix it."