Rural States Needs to Demand Congressional Action on Immigration Reform
The Midwest and rural states need to demand that their U.S. senators and representatives reform immigration laws to allow guest workers to come into the country.
“We need to have this thing solved,” says Kurt Bauer, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC). WMC includes Wisconsin’s chamber of commerce, the state manufacturers’ association and the state safety council. Bauer spoke last week at the Vita Plus Dairy Summit 2018 in Welch, Minn.
“There is no one solution [to finding more workers], but the situation is particularly bad for agriculture and for dairy,” he says. Finding more workers who want to live and work in rural areas, other than immigrant labor from Mexico and Central America, is extremely difficult. Immigration reform is therefore vital.
“We can’t accept that immigration is a federal issue,” he says. Each Midwestern state has 8 or 10 Congressional representatives. Business and agricultural leaders in each of these states need to demand Congress does something.
Without improvement in the availability of labor in the Midwest, “we are not only looking at economic stagnation, but economic contraction,” he says. WMC projections show there will be virtually no growth in worker availability over the next 20 years without more foreign labor.
“The [immigration reform] model doesn’t have to be complicated,” he says. A guest-worker program, where workers are documented and come to work for a specified period, could be implemented quickly.
Other keys to finding more labor is solving the methamphetamine/opioid crisis and reforming prison sentencing guidelines. Bauer notes that up to 30 to 35% of working age adults are not in the workforce. Many of these individuals are sidelined because of addiction and/or felony conviction problems. Programs to rehabilitate these individuals are desperately needed to reduce costs to society and to once again make them productive citizens.