Commentary: Obama’s going to tackle immigration? Yeah, right

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On Sunday, President Obama promised to pursue immigration reform if re-elected.

“I can promise that I will try to do it in the first year of my second term,” he told Univision.

Haven’t we heard that before?

In June 2009, President Obama pledged to push for immigration reform, tapping a top Cabinet official to work with Congress and make it a priority. Read more.

Back then, he didn’t have the excuse of blaming Congress for any inaction on the issue. Both houses of Congress were controlled by Democrats at the time.

In November 2009, in a speech at the Center for American Progress, U.S. Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano said immigration reform would be a priority of the Obama Administration in 2010.

Two and a half years later, we are still waiting for meaningful reform.

Dairy farms continue to operate in legal limbo.

In February, while attending the World Ag Expo in California, I heard an incredible story about a Michigan dairy farmer who had three immigration raids occur at his place. The last time, law enforcement came in with a helicopter and tank, he said. The raids, along with being put on probation and fined $2.7 million for hiring illegal immigrant workers, left the farmer in a tough spot. He realized he had to start hiring Anglos, and that proved daunting just trying to find enough Anglo workers to stick around and do the work. Read more and see a video here.

The fact of the matter is, very few American-born workers are willing to do the work. If it weren’t for immigrant workers, many dairies would be in major trouble.

Cows need to be milked; consumers need a reliable supply of dairy products, and billions of dollars flow through state and local economies because of it.  

It’s time that the government came up with some sort of clarity on this issue.

It’s time someone stepped up and took a leadership role.




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New York  |  April, 20, 2012 at 07:02 AM

Yes, Obama punted on immigration reform, but Romney's self-deportation plan is worse. Obama cannot allow piecemeal reform such as farm worker visa reform as a stand-alone bill. Why not? Because as soon as the Congressmen who support farm worker visa reform get what they want, they will say "I've got mine" and their votes will be lost in terms of passing other, future pieces of immigration reform (and you need to get 60 votes in the Senate and a majority in the House to pass any bill, no matter how small it may be). Conclusion: If you want farmworker visa reform/legalization, you must tell your Congressmen to support comprehensive immigration reform, or they cannot count on your votes at the polls.

OH  |  April, 20, 2012 at 09:01 AM

Tom, your canard of "Back then, he didn't have the excuse of blaming Congress for any inaction on the issue. Both houses of Congress were controlled by Democrats at the time." fits the Fox News style of journalism. You know as well as I do that unless a party has 60 votes in the Senate that the simple majority can not get anything passed. This biased, inaccurate article takes you one notch down the credibility ladder.

clair pederson    
dresser wi 54009  |  April, 20, 2012 at 09:25 AM

Mr tom quaife. first did dairymen break the law? YES HE DID! Was dairymen a habitual offender? YES HE WAS HE HAD BEEN CAUGHT BEFORE! Why is it ok to break some laws? Were these people here illegally? Yes they were. Than send there butts back to where they came from. He coulkd hire legal workers or work visa people IF HE JUST PUT AN ADD IN THE PAPER FOR HELP WANTED OR GO THRU SOME HIRING AGENCY/hoardsdairymen etc etc. This is not just Obama fault. Has any president stopped the flow of ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS to this country in last 50 to 60 years? NO. Obama has spent more dollars for border patrol than any. The only way to stop them is to get employees whom break the law of the land to stop hiring them!!!!

soc al  |  April, 20, 2012 at 09:04 PM

i expect he had already tried. but most american workers just cant stick actual hard work !!!! i need local laborers but try getting one to work alll day in the sun . they leave for lunch and dont come back.

MN  |  April, 20, 2012 at 10:22 AM

"The fact of the matter is, very few American-born workers are willing to do the work. If it weren’t for immigrant workers, many dairies would be in major trouble" The fact those dairies decided to outgrow the available labor force is not reason to allow illegal aliens, nor to expect the american taxpayer to subsidize their stay in this country I milk 100 cows, the local labor force fills my needs, also those of neighboring dairies milking 400, 700, and 900. I would not presume to expand to a point that exceeds available labor and then whine about it.

IL  |  April, 20, 2012 at 10:37 AM

Maynard, when the population grows, the demand grows, and you have to expand your business to stay in business. You cannot keep the same number of 100 cows that used to be enough for 5,000 people when now we have 20,000 people to feed. Back in the day out of the 5,000 people 80% worked on the farm, and today out of the 20,000, only 20% work on the farm. If you lack this knowledge, then your argument is worthless. Corporation expand, don't they? And what do they do? They fire US citizens and hire offshore resources. How is that different then hiring illegals? you don't like the situation, I don't like it either, but like it or not, we do need those immigrants no matter how many cows you milk.

New York  |  April, 20, 2012 at 01:18 PM

What is the point in delaying and not wanting to fix a problem. Both parties are fake when it comes to getiing anything sensible done. To have such a major issue and only talk talk and talk about it and do nothing, makes absolutely no sense to the well being of our country. If any reform is required, we must first start with the Senate and Congress. Clean up the acts of the jokes in there first and thenhead over to fix our immigration problem. America will continue to decline because we live with tremendous disagreement. None of the blokes in DC feel any of it because they are so far away from the reality of things.

Wi  |  April, 20, 2012 at 01:23 PM

Using local labor worked real well in Georgia and Alabama. You have 2 factions working against immigration reform.Democrats have to deal with labor unions, and the Republicans have to deal with the far right who live in ivory towers and tell us that we have to compete in the global market place or we import our food.

PA  |  April, 20, 2012 at 01:26 PM

We are shooting ourselves in the foot on this issue. First, the only reason we have immigrants milking our cows is because our competition has immigrants milking their cows. Would the dairy industry look different without immigrant labor? Absolutely, but it would not die. We might have more robots. We might have fewer 25,000 cow operations. We might just have more opportunity for the young people that want to milk cows but cannot possibly finance the kind of operation now needed to compete with the 25,000 cow operation. The “very few American-born workers are willing to do the work” line is false. It is true, however, that few are willing to work that hard for SOMEONE ELSE at a marginal wage. They would love their own farm and we should be doing everything we can to encourage them rather than undermine their opportunities.

Wi  |  April, 20, 2012 at 08:03 PM

Chad: not trying to degrade your comment but if we followed your model we would shrink our dairy production which you would think would increase our prices, great idea but with our open borders it would just open the door up for more foreign dairy products, and dairy production would shrink further. Unless we closed our borders like Canada.

Iowa  |  April, 21, 2012 at 01:04 AM

Interesting to see very conservative producers espouse law and order until the business is affected. Large herd dairying is unsustainable for many reasons, not the least of which is its being predicated on illegal labor. But when the stakes become too high exceptions to laws that limit profitability become "against the national interest". As regarding supply and demand: until 8 years ago we were a milk deficit country with relatively stable milk prices. As exports became significant, speculators began to demand the commodification of milk resulting in life-threatening volatility. Large herd "economies of scale" exploded and leverage became the new paradigm. Regarding changing the laws to suit an industry whose lack of foresight and pursuit of "scale" which is leading to the destruction of dairy as a way of life and a lifetime vocation (rather than dairy as commodity hedge operations that produce milk as a by-product), I would offer a caveat. When your $85.00 a day workers become legal, whether by guest permit or visa, the position of shop steward will soon be filled.

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