He said the unauthorized workers are hired "unknowingly by employers."
"They're all documented, it's just whether or not those documents would pass scrutiny of an ICE (U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) audit," Naerebout said.
Idaho's 540 dairies -- 72 percent in the Magic Valley, 22 percent in the Treasure Valley and 6 percent in eastern Idaho -- employ about 8,400 people, he said. In all, he said, 33,000 Idaho jobs hinge on the industry.
"If we don't have the employees in the dairies or in (the fields), doing the harvesting, then all the employees on top of that, their jobs would be at risk," Naerebout said.
He, too, argues that the nation must help dairy and other agriculture employees work toward legal residency and legally bring in more such workers in the future.
"Second-generation Americans aren't really looking at going into the agriculture industry," he said.
Businesses back reform
The Idaho Business Coalition for Immigration Reform expressed a similar sentiment in a letter to U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, saying, "There are not enough American workers available for and interested in filling many job positions."
Naerebout is a member of the coalition's board. So are representatives of the J.R. Simplot Co., the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, and the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation.
"It is tempting to think of these positions as unskilled labor (or semi-skilled at best)," the coalition wrote, "but the truth of the matter is that in order to remain competitive in the global marketplace, employers need the ability to fill job positions at all levels with the best workers available, some of whom may not be Americans."
Opponents of proposed immigration reform say it could reward immigrants for breaking U.S. law. They say immigrants without legal status take jobs that would otherwise be filled by citizens and represent a drain on services such as education and law enforcement.
The national Federation for American Immigration Reform, which aims to reduce all types of immigration and strengthen border control, argues that "the willingness of foreign workers to accept lower wages ... acts to depress wages and working conditions for all workers in that occupation" and makes those jobs less attractive to U.S. citizens who have other options.
Although Idaho business voices against immigration reform are scarce, the federation argues that the state's citizens see things differently.
In June, the federation announced results of a poll it commissioned that said two-thirds of Idaho respondents oppose granting legal status to people who are in the country illegally until a border security plan is fully implemented, and 74 percent oppose increases in guest workers. The poll said 54 percent of likely Idaho voters oppose the immigration reform bill the Senate passed that month and 36 percent support it.
Two months earlier, the Main Street Alliance and American Sustainable Business Council released a survey that found widespread small-business support for immigration reform. That support was echoed by Idaho small-business men and women, including Gates and Carrillo, who gathered in April at Meridian City Hall to reveal the poll results and urge Labrador to push for immigration reform. The survey found that 78 percent of small-business owners in Western states,
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