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Greg Sargent Talks to Growers: 'I Used to Be a Loyal Check Writer to GOP, But At This Point the Checkbook is Closed'

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On the heels of today’s New York Times story about California farmers who are running out of time and patience waiting for immigration reform, Greg Sargent at the Washington Post has a similar article about growers in places like Washington state (and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ district).  According to Sargent, nearly all of these growers are Republican, and have been longtime contributors to the Republican Party.  But frustration over the lack of immigration reform — which they sorely need to ensure they have enough labor — is causing them to snap their checkbooks closed.   Latino voters aren’t the only voting bloc Republicans will be in big trouble with if they don’t act on immigration reform. Read an excerpt below or the full article here.

Craig Regelbrugge, who co-chairs the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, says a large majority of his group’s members — which include large and small farming enterprises and growers all around the country — are Republican, and many give to the GOP. But he’s increasingly hearing from members who are so frustrated by the Congressional GOP’s failure to act on reform — which is central to maintaining a workforce in the industry — that they are considering withholding campaign donations.

“I hear from growers frequently who basically say, `I used to be a loyal check writer when the Republican Party called, but at this point, the checkbook is closed,’” Regelbrugge tells me. “I’m hearing from growers who are no longer writing checks supporting the party.”

Mike Gempler heads the Washington Growers League, which represents growers ranging from mom-and-pop outfits to enterprises spanning 10,000 acres, and he says that “well over 90 percent” of his members vote Republican, and many write checks. Some of them sit in the district of GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State, a member of the GOP leadership.

But, he says, they are increasingly convinced the GOP is no longer representing their interests in the immigration debate, if the failure to move on legislation is any indication, and are concluding that Republicans are very close to squandering a rare opportunity to achieve reform.

“We’re seeing a lack of response to our needs and concerns from significant parts of the Republican caucus in the House,” Gempler tells me. “They either have ideological issues or they are catering to a more reactionary crowd.”

“We want to see the leadership, including Cathy, move on this,” Gempler continues. “The chances for getting immigration reform are lessening quickly. If we don’t get this done by August recess, we’re going to be in trouble as an industry.”