Sen. Mark R. Warner, said the so-called Gang of Eight’s current immigration bill “is the best chance in 35 years to fix a broken immigration system.”
About 30 farmers attended Warner’s round-table discussion last week about immigration reform at Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s headquarters.
“I want to hear your concerns, because we still have time,” he said. He outlined the highlights of the bill, which include a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants currently in the U.S. illegally; increased border security; employer verification requirements; and an opportunity for more high-skilled and guest workers to enter the country.
Many of the producers attending rely on the federal foreign worker programs for their seasonal labor needs.
“I think getting legal status for those 11 million helps all of you,” Warner said.
But participants were concerned about wage rates required under the proposed legislation. Others shared concerns about the requirement that farmers give American laborers the first crack at seasonal job openings. They said it’s next to impossible to get American workers to fill the jobs, and many of those they hire don’t actually show up for work. By that time, the opportunity to hire foreign workers for the season has passed.
Troy Simpson, who owns a landscape business and hires foreign workers, said he tried filling jobs with American workers, “and it just didn’t work.”
He had 150 referrals from the Employment Commission; 74 were scheduled for interviews, but only 34 showed up. Six of the 34 reported for work, and only one is still working for Simpson.
The assertion that immigrants are taking Americans’ jobs, Simpson said, “is a falsehood.”