Senate needs industry voices on immigration

05/31/2013 11:19:00 AM
Ray Gilmer

Ray Gilmer, United Fresh Produce AssociationRay Gilmer, United Fresh Produce AssociationThe next few days are a critical time for our industry’s future.

The Senate has scheduled debate and a vote for its immigration reform measure — the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act — and we can’t miss this opportunity.

It’s our best chance in a generation to modernize our immigration system and address our industry’s labor shortages.

Workforce shortages have been building for more than a decade, and a variety of factors, including border enforcement, the economies here, in Mexico and other countries, could further limit our workforce in the seasons ahead.

The agricultural provisions of the immigration reform bill include a landmark framework for a new, workable guest worker visa program. It’s a carefully crafted plan to specifically address the drawbacks of the current H-2A guest worker program.

However, there is real and powerful opposition to the Senate immigration bill, and as much as United Fresh and others support it, passage in the Senate is not a slam dunk. The bill’s opposition is working overtime, using hundreds of e-mails, postcards, letters and e-mails to try to kill this important legislation.

The opposition is making noise, so we’ve just got to make even more. Senators need to know we support the bill in a big way.

On the trade show floor at United Fresh 2013 in San Diego last month, hundreds of convention attendees stopped by United’s membership booth to call their senators about the bill.

The immigration call center made it quick and simple for anyone to officially register their support for reform.

That’s a great showing of support, and, as the Senate vote draws near, we need to do even more.

United has a section of our website dedicated to helping the industry make noise in support of immigration reform.

Visit www.unitedfresh.org/labor and see easy options for calling your senators on the phone, or sending them an e-mail.

The messages in support of the legislation are already there. It’s open to United members and non-members. You just have to take three minutes to make your voice heard.

And don’t forget to ask your coworkers and colleagues to join the fight. Every person counts.

From now until the Senate’s vote later this month, United’s staff will continue meeting with key Senate offices on immigration reform. What’s more, several United Fresh members will be coming to Capitol Hill for important face-to-face discussions with key senators and their staffs.

With a strong vote in the Senate, we’ll have much-needed momentum as we work with the House of Representatives on its version of the bill later this summer.

Do it now. Visit www.unitedfresh.org/labor and make some noise in support of immigration reform. We can’t afford to miss this opportunity.

Ray Gilmer is vice president of issues management and communication for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association.

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