Ag officials say immigration reform is a necessity

July 29, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says without immigration reform, the nation's economy, especially California's will suffer.

"Seventy-three percent of the workforce in California is non-citizens and so if you apply you can see most of the workers in California upon which this 31 billion dollar industry depends are non-citizens they may not be authorized to be in this country," Vilsack said. "A failure to have comprehensive immigration reform could cost California $1.7 to $3 billion actually. "

Manuel Cunha of the Nisei Farmers League agrees with Vilsack but says his numbers are too low. He puts the number of undocumented at 90 percent and notes they are the backbone of an economy that goes far beyond the orchards and fields.

"The amount of jobs become astronomical when you look at farmworkers and farm employees and packing house employees all of those people and when you step off of that you look at all of the other jobs agriculture creates," Cunha said.

Clarita Cortes of The United Farm Workers Foundation agrees immigration reform will be good for its members and the economy as a whole.

"They are here, they are working they are paying taxes," Cortes said. "They are community members they are part of this economy and now if this compromise bill passes these community members are going to keep on paying taxes, keep on contributing to this country. "

The report is aimed at the Republicans in Congress who are blocking immigration reform Cunha hopes they get the message during their upcoming recess.

"If they read it that will be important, I'm hoping that during their 30 days that they are off that they read the report," Cunha said.


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