As the debate on immigration reform peaks with the possible introduction of a bill in the Senate in early April, I’m encouraged that farmers in North Carolina are raising their voices in support of comprehensive solutions.
In the course of this national debate, we’ve heard youth, labor, faith communities, and civil and human rights groups speak out for reforming our broken immigration system with humane legislation that affirms family unity and an earned pathway to citizenship. Now, from this seemingly unlikely quarter, comes support from farmers in North Carolina.
The farmers see the state’s economic growth tied to the passage of a genuine immigration reform bill. Agriculture and agribusiness are North Carolina’s largest industries, accounting for about 17 percent of the state’s economy and jobs. Big industrial farmers in North Carolina rely on a stable and affordable workforce to protect the more than $71.6 billion that agriculture contributes to the state economy. That stable workforce is composed largely of undocumented migrant laborers.
That’s how it came about that a group of North Carolina farmers gathered in front of the state’s General Assembly on February 27 to push their elected officials to fix the broken immigration system and advocate for national comprehensive immigration reform. The group predicts dire consequences if the state requires farmers to comply with the E-Verify program. In turn, state legislators have been calling on their federal congressional representatives to support comprehensive immigration reform.
Seeing comprehensive reform’s already broad support being varied with unusual allies such as the North Carolina farmers gives me great hope that this will indeed be the year we pass a bill that meets LIRS principles. We’re holding fast to family unity and an earned and clear pathway to citizenship for the 11 milling aspiring citizens in the country. In addition, America deserves a humane immigration system that treats working people with the dignity and respect they deserve.
North Carolina is one of the priority states in our quest to educate and mobilize Lutherans to support comprehensive immigration reform. For more information and action opportunities around immigration reform, please visit http://lirs.org/cir/. To speak out for comprehensive immigration reform, please visit our Action Center.