In today’s Wall Street Journal, a leading advocate for the agricultural community makes an insightful case about the failure of Congress to pass immigration reform. Tom Nassif, CEO of Western Growers, notes candidly that the majority of farm workers are in the country illegally. He also notes that, without these workers, America’s farms could not operate and that America’s food supply would be jeopardized.
“Faced with the option of economic ruin, as hundreds of millions of dollars worth of our livelihood rots in the fields, or the embrace of a fatally flawed immigration system, our industry and farm families opt to survive. Who wouldn’t?,” he writes. “For those who have a 10-20 day harvest window to make or break their entire business year, government promises to fix the system don’t work. We can’t wait for rules to change. We need reform and we need it now.”
Unfortunately, Nassif directs his frustration at the Department of Homeland Security – which is mandated to carry out the immigration laws passed by Congress. As DHS gets its feet beneath it and becomes increasingly more efficient at enforcing immigration laws, those who oppose those laws become proportionately more vocal in their criticisms of the Department. But DHS shouldn’t be the target. DHS didn’t draft the nation’s immigration laws. Congress did.
Until the public gives a clear signal to its elected representatives about what kind of immigration reform is best for America, you’ll continue to see stalemates of the type we saw during this year’s failed immigration debate. And continued non-action on this important issue.
The frustrations expressed by Nassif and others are understandable. And, to their credit, they are not asking that we water down our border security. They are asking simply that we fix the broken and outdated processes of legal immigration:
“Western Growers — representing half of all the fresh fruits and vegetables grown in the U.S. — has repeatedly called for a fix,” he writes. “We want and expect government to enforce immigration laws; we want a secure border, fraud-proof IDs and valid Social Security cards. Despite a broken and unworkable system, however, Congress has chosen not to act.”
Vilifying the men and women who are charged with enforcing the laws passed by Congress, however, won’t fix the broken system. Only our elected representatives in Congress can do that. Mr. Nassif and others who decry our immigration system do need to take action, but they are misdirecting their energies. Until members of Congress feel the heat to take action, nothing will change.