Speaking one year after the Senate passed an immigration reform bill, President Barack Obama chided what he called “obstruction” from Republicans in the House of Representatives as preventing movement on the issue.
“Our country and our economy would be stronger today if House Republicans had allowed a simple yes-or-no vote on this bill or, for that matter, any bill,” Obama said June 30, according to whitehouse.gov. “They’ve proven again and again that they’re unwilling to stand up to the Tea Party in order to do what’s best for the country.”
Obama said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told him Republicans will continue to block a vote on immigration reform at least for the remainder of the year.
Obama promised executive action to address immigration issues, starting with moving more federal resources to the southern border.
“Protecting public safety and deporting dangerous criminals has been and will remain the top priority, but we are going to refocus our efforts where we can to make sure we do what it takes to keep our border secure,” he said. Obama also promised additional administration actions by the end of the summer to “do what Congress refuses to do and fix as much of our immigration system as we can.”
Industry leaders urged House leaders to influence reforms to the U.S. immigration system.
“We appreciate President Obama’s commitment to try to address our broken immigration policy through executive action, but urge the House of Representatives not to abandon their responsibility to address this serious issue,” Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, said in a statement. “If the House continues to disregard its responsibility to address this issue, the produce industry has no choice but to work with the administration on short-term administrative patches that will be appreciated, but are ultimately unsatisfactory.”
Stenzel said Congressional inaction on immigration reform is driving fruit and vegetable production out of the U.S., costing U.S. consumers and growers millions of dollars, and eliminating jobs across the produce supply chain.
The Obama administration has not disclosed to industry what executive actions it will take, said Tom Nassif, president and chief executive officer of Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers.
“The House leadership’s refusal thus far to allow a vote on an immigration bill puts all U.S. industries, especially agriculture, in a desperate situation,” Nassif said in a statement. “Action by Congress to statutorily define our immigration policies is obviously far preferable to this situation.”
With more border enforcement expected, stepped up employer sanctions and enforcement may be a concern, said Frank Gasperini, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the McLean, Va.-based National Council of Agricultural Employers. The farm labor supply for specialty crop growers was generally reported as adequate in early July, but Gasperini said there are worries of shortages this fall when apple harvest gears up across the U.S.