tags: Press Releases

A View from the States: GOP Nativism Is Damaging Economic Progress and Blocking Solutions

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Washington, DC – Several recent opinion columns add to the growing wave of facts how Republican opposition to immigration reform is needlessly damaging our economic potential. In the case of Florida, and the anti-immigrant bill recently muscled through by Ron DeSantis, the costs of GOP nativism are even greater than just a missed opportunity.Evidence is mounting about the self-inflicted damage to Florida’s economy caused by the signature DeSantis immigration bill.

According to Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

“Whether it is Iowa, Idaho or Florida or states in between, all across the country, we are seeing reminders about the high cost and consequences of GOP nativism. In Congress, Republicans’ preference for anti-immigrant political theater and obstruction blocks real bipartisan solutions that could turbocharge the economy. And in Florida, we’re seeing a real-time example of the consequences of turning Republican anti-immigrant political messaging into real policy. While Ron DeSantis touts his state’s hardline policy on the primary trail, the view from the state is one of workers fleeing the state and key Florida industries sounding the alarm.”

Below, are several recent opinion columns underscoring the economic need for immigrants and pro-immigrant policies – and the accompanying toll of obstruction and hardline nativist policies:

In Iowa: In The Gazette of Cedar Rapids, center-right columnist Althea Cole writes: “What some conservatives, including Trump, get wrong about immigration,” including: 

“[T]he uncomfortable reality is that entry-level farm labor is something that virtually no natural-born American adult is willing to do. Even in the state of Iowa, a rural state that prides itself on its embrace of hard work, jobs like detasseling or the mostly-yesteryear task of “walking beans” are seen as work we send our 15-year-olds to do for a couple weeks each summer to build character and earn their first real paycheck. Few if any of us can picture a 38-year-old white guy following the work from state to state as the seasons change. But even in Iowa, the produce is produced, and someone needs to pick it. In an employment landscape where over 140,000 agricultural labor openings exist, immigrant and migrant workers present not a problem, but an opportunity, despite a national immigration system riddled with bureaucratic idiocy and illogical rules.

…But more than just supply, demand or the price of a head of lettuce, conservatives who hesitate at migrant workers as a part of a healthy immigration system discount the benefit our nation can reap in the future from today’s migrant workers. Being on H-2A visas, most migrant workers are foreign nationals. If the contributions of willing migrant workers can’t to be utilized to get those jobs done, not only will that affect the growers’ ability to produce and harvest those leafy greens, it also will affect how likely you are to find them at your local grocery store — and what you’ll pay when you do.”

In Idaho: Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) writes an op-ed in the Idaho Statesman,”Idaho industries paying the price of our broken immigration system. Reform is needed.” While Rep. Simpson uses the opening of his op-ed to riff on misleading Republican attack lines on fentanyl (not an immigration issue) and to tout the GOP anti-immigrant HR2 grab-bag legislation that is going nowhere in the Senate, the second half of the op-ed makes a compelling economic case for immigration reform once he moves past GOP attack line bromides. Rep. Simpson writes:

“Failure to act on comprehensive immigration reform, however, continues to leave Idaho’s agriculture, construction, hospitality, medical and countless other industries less secure. The consequences of our broken immigration system are felt every day by Idaho employers who cannot find a legal workforce willing to do the jobs that keep their businesses and our economy running. 

Nowhere is this truer than in agriculture. We may not like to admit it, but most Americans are simply unwilling to harvest crops by hand or milk cows every day. As a result, Idaho farmers have had to rely on an immigrant workforce for decades. But because our immigration system doesn’t work, they face a growing workforce crisis that is crippling our state’s valuable agriculture industry. The current H-2A guestworker program is costly and cumbersome, and it is not even available to whole swaths of the agriculture sector, like the dairy industry. 

In fact, Idaho’s dairy industry provides us with a good example of how crucial immigration reform is for our state’s economy. Ninety percent of Idaho’s dairy workers are foreign-born. These are good-paying jobs — higher than anything you would find on the main street of your local community — but domestic workers simply won’t take them. Without access to a visa program that connects them with a legal workforce, Idaho dairymen are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Idaho’s dairy producers have countless stories about good, loyal workers they have employed for years who have been valuable in helping them build their businesses, only to find out that they are here without legal status when their employee is deported after a traffic stop or some other interaction with law enforcement. 

No one wins in this situation — the dairy loses a valuable employee, and Idaho loses a valued member of the community who pays taxes, goes to church on Sunday, spends their earnings locally, and does their best to be a good member of society. No one benefits from our failure to fix our broken immigration system.”

In Florida, South-Florida Sun Sentinel columnist Fred Grimm writes, “Florida’s immigration crackdown exacerbates labor shortage,” noting:

“Rick Roth, the farmer, could hardly disguise his exasperation with Rick Roth, the state representative.

“I’m a farmer and the farmers are mad as hell,” the agrarian version of Roth told members of the Hispanic Ministers Association Monday evening in Hialeah. The third-generation Palm Beach County sugarcane farmer was mad as hell about Florida’s draconian new immigration law that’s scaring away workers and exacerbating the state’s labor shortage, particularly in the agriculture sector.

Except as a Republican state representative, Roth voted for the measure, which had been pushed through the Legislature at the behest of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who thinks immigrant-stomping will get him to the White House.

…The Florida Policy Institute predicts that the law is toothy enough to take a $12.6 billion-a-year bite out of the economy. FPI estimated that hospitality, construction and other immigrant-dependent industries will lose 10% of their workforce. Probably more in agriculture, given that 47% of the state’s farmworkers are undocumented.

No wonder Farmer Roth has been so unsettled by the law supported by Rep. Roth.”