Editor's note: Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert, a weekly newspaper created by the California Farm Bureau Federation
If immigration reform is to happen, it must be now: That's the message supporters of immigration reform continue to send to members of Congress. Agricultural groups and other organizations say they intend to continue to put pressure on lawmakers to pass comprehensive reform, to follow up on momentum created by a "fly-in" event in Washington, D.C.
"We need to keep telling our representatives the importance of passing real reform. Otherwise, legislators will think its OK if they wait—and if they wait, that could be for four to seven years or more until it is addressed again," said Rayne Pegg, manager of the California Farm Bureau Federation Federal Policy Division. "Legislators are in their districts, so share your stories with the message that reform must happen."
Pegg joined more than 600 business leaders during the Americans for Reform immigration fly-in last week, which included nearly 60 Farm Bureau members and leaders from 14 states. Pegg spent the day talking to congressional representatives about the importance of a reformed agricultural immigration program, and about continued labor shortages reported by farmers through initial results of a CFBF survey.
"Congressmen Jeff Denham and David Valadao understand the need for working across the aisle to get something done that allows those currently working in agriculture to continue to work in agriculture and remain in the country, as well as create a visa program that works in the real world of farming," Pegg said. "They both are moving the discussion forward in their party. We need more members like Denham and Valadao who understand the realities and the human aspect of this issue."
Valadao, R-Hanford, announced the day following the fly-in that he supports a comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced by House Democrats last month. Denham, R-Turlock, was the first Republican to express support for the bill as a co-sponsor.
"Addressing immigration reform in the House cannot wait," Valadao said. "I am serious about making real progress and will remain committed to doing whatever it takes to repair our broken immigration system."
Denham also discussed the need to act by the end of the year.
"We can't afford any more delays," Denham said. "We are a nation of immigrants, but today, our broken system has failed to secure the border, enforce our current laws and help us to attract the best and brightest who want to come and contribute to the greatness of America."