Trying to keep pressure on House Republicans over immigration,
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said U.S. farmers risk losing production -- or
even taking production out of the country -- without a reliable source of legal
In a telephone interview with The Pueblo Chieftain, Vilsack said the immigration bill approved by the Senate this summer has the support of the nation's largest business lobby, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as organized labor.
"If we don't do this, you'll see a drop in farm production and even agriculture migrate out of the U.S.," he said Thursday.
Vilsack pointed out that the California-based Western Growers Association has said that 80,000 acres of fruit and vegetable production already has moved to Mexico to find workers.
A White House report on immigration and agriculture was released earlier this week and it claims that legalizing 11 million undocumented workers in the U.S. would boost the economy by $850 billion over 20 years and even add needed revenue into Social Security.
House Republicans have charged the Senate bill is too soft on border security and essentially gives legal amnesty to undocumented immigrants over time.
Vilsack disagreed, saying the security provisions would "lock in" undocumented workers in the U.S. by stricter border control.
"Everyone knows it's not logical to try to identify, arrest and imprison 11 million people," he said.
Vilsack said the Senate plan lets undocumented people legalize their residency by paying fines and passing background checks. But gaining citizenship would take a decade or more, he said.
(c)2013 The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.)
Visit The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.) at www.chieftain.com
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