Sen. Maj. Leader Chuck Schumer, Maj Whip Dick Durbin, Catholic Cardinal Wilton Gregory, CEOs, University Presidents, Dreamers and Farm Workers Call for Immediate Immigration Solutions
With national labor shortage and Texas federal district court ruling ending DACA, ABIC and coalition partners were on Capitol Hill to support legalization through bipartisan bills or budget reconciliation; inaction is unacceptable.
For a recording of the press conference click here: https://bit.ly/3Bss4TO
WASHINGTON, DC — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Shumer (D-NY) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin joined the Catholic Cardinal Wilton Gregory, business executives, farmers, farm workers, university presidents and Dreamers in calling for congressional enactment of key immigration reforms this year. Click here to see a recording of the press conference.
“It is time to finally reform our broken immigration system and provide a pathway to citizenship to millions of hard-working immigrants,” Schumer said at a news conference Wednesday on Capitol Hill organized by the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC).
“When I heard that court decision on DACA, that vicious, brutal court decision on DACA, I was furious. I was frustrated. Another slap in the face…We cannot, must not, will not let the future of these DACA recipients hang in the balance. So rest assured my friends, we are going to do everything we can to provide a pathway to citizenship to the Dreamers and many others,” Schumer added.
During the press conference, ABIC representatives stressed a preference for bipartisan immigration solutions, but if the only legislative vehicle is the more partisan budget reconciliation process, that is better than inaction on immigration this year.
“We have met with 41 republican senators. We believe there is a group of 13 to 15 Republicans who understand the importance of immigration to the economy. There is a deal to be had, legalization via bipartisanship or reconciliation must be achieved over inaction ” said Rebecca Shi, ABIC Executive Director. What is not acceptable is inaction.”
The call for immediate action on immigration became more urgent after a Texas federal court decided last week to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Dreamers, farm workers, TPS holders need certainty so that they can live, work and contribute to our economy.
Also, chronic labor shortages across the nation have compelled business owners and executives to push for bipartisan immigration solutions including the Durbin-Graham Dream Act of 2021, the Bennet-Crapo Farm Workforce Modernization Act, and the SECURE Act.
Earlier Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Durbin, held a hearing on immigrant farmworkers and received testimony from two ABIC members, Linnea Kooistra, Farmer, Kooistra Farms, Woodstock, IL; and Shay Myers, CEO, Owyhee Produce, the largest asparagus grower in the country based on the Oregon-Idaho border.
Here’s a complete set of speakers: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY; Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-IL; Cardinal Wilton Gregory, The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington; Don Graham, Dream.us and Graham Holdings Chairman and CEO and ABIC Co-Chair; Enrique Sanchez, Dreamer and aspiring police officer, Salt Lake City, Utah; Nora Venegas, Vice President, Tyson Foods; Shay Myers, CEO, Owyhee Produce; Father Dennis Holtschneider, President, Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities; Arturo Rodriguez, United Farm Workers Chairman Emeritus; Claudia Duran, farmworker and UFW Foundation member; Jane Fernandes, Steering Committee Member, Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration; former President, Guilford College, North Carolina; Todd Schulte, FWD.us CEO; Murad Awawdeh, New York Immigration Coalition Executive Director; Rebecca Shi, ABIC Executive Director; Angelica Salas, Executive Director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA); Craig Regelbrugge, Sr. V.P. for AmericanHort; and Ana Navarro, political consultant.
The following are key statements from the press conference and Senate Judiciary Committee hearing:
Sen. Durbin: “Twenty years ago I introduced the DREAM Act and in the 20-year period of time I’ve learned a lot about the Senate. I’ve learned a lot about myself. But most of all I’ve learned about the Dreamers. They never give up and we’ll never give up.”
Cardinal Wilton Gregory, The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington: “Together with my brother Catholic bishops, the Catholic Church has repeatedly expressed tremendous concern for families divided by our current broken immigration system. For we know that strong and united families are the building blocks of our society, and our society can only flourish if families are given the opportunity to flourish. This includes immigrant and mixed-status families, who deserve to be treated with justice and charity.”
Don Graham, Dream.us and Graham Holdings Chairman and CEO; ABIC Co-Chair: “What we are talking about today is a matter of justice. This is a matter of fair treatment of others. It is a moral matter…We are all here because we love our country. America is not a cruel country and Americans are not cruel people. But what we are doing to Dreamers is cruel and it is wrong.”
Shay Myers, CEO, Owyhee Produce: “Let’s be honest with ourselves, the last 36 years of policies and political failures have led us here. Now is the time to act. It’s not ethical, it’s not economically viable, and it’s not safe to kick this can down the road yet again…It’s not economically viable because America’s farms, ranches, and dairies cannot operate their businesses without sufficient labor. This year on our asparagus farm we lost 100% of the season’s profits because we were unable to get domestic labor when our 36 H-2A (agriculture visa) workers were delayed at the border and arrived 90 days after our date of need. 90 days!! We lost nearly 300,000 pounds of asparagus.”
Nora Venegas, Director Federal Government Relations, Tyson Foods: “At Tyson Foods, we believe immigrants are vital threads in the cultural fabric of America. We have long supported policies to support the rights of immigrants and enhance access to citizenship. We urge Congress to pass bipartisan immigration reform to build a system that better serves immigrants, their families and our communities and economy. A thoughtful solution on DACA must be part of this reform.”
Kooistra, Farmer, Kooistra Farms, Woodstock, IL said during Senate Judiciary Hearing: “I am here to plead with you to help the industry that I love, and my friends who are dairy farmers and are up against the wall. One farmer told me they are starting to think about robotic milkers, but he says the cost is astronomical and he does not know how he can pay for it with his 500 cows. If the U.S. Dairy industry lost its foreign born workforce, it would nearly double retail milk prices and cost the U.S. economy more than $32 billion, according to a study by Texas A & M University.”
Arturo Rodriguez, United Farm Workers Chairman Emeritus: “To feed the nation, farm workers work with dairy cattle for milk production, in beef cattle ranching and farming, or in the harvesting of fruits and vegetables that we rely on for daily nourishment. Without them, the industry and our food security would collapse. We have a House of Representatives that has prioritized farm worker legalization by passing a bill in the first 100 days of this Congress. We have a Chair of the Judiciary Committee who has committed to passing legislation that allows farm workers to earn legal status. We have a President that is prepared to sign it. Now we need the Senate to use every tool at its disposal to honor the people that we rely on to feed the nation and bring stability to the agricultural industry. If we’re serious about addressing the issue of agricultural labor, this is our moment.”
Claudia Duran, farmworker and UFW Foundation member: “For the past 17 years, I have worked in the fields of Michigan. Being a farm worker isn’t easy, I have faced many challenges, including dehydration, drastic weather conditions, limited access to food security, and insufficient PPE during the pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, I continued to work. I didn’t have the luxury to quarantine at home, my four children depend on me. Through it all, I am constantly thinking of my status and returning home safely after work to my children. I urge senators to pass a pathway to citizenship for farm workers this year.”
Enrique Sanchez, Dreamer, University of UT and aspiring Police Officer, Salt Lake City, UT: “We need a permanent solution now. I call on my Utah senators, Sen. Mike Lee and Sen. Mitt Romney to support any and all immigration reform that is in Congress now. We need permanent solutions now, especially with what’s going on around the country.”
Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition: “Congress has the chance to fulfill the broken promises of more than three decades by including a pathway to citizenship in President Biden’s infrastructure package. It’s long past time for a permanent solution to the political gridlock in D.C., not just for every Dreamer, but also for TPS holders, farm workers and essential workers. It’s good for our economy, communities, and the smart thing to do to ensure the country’s economic recovery. Inaction is not an option, when so much is at stake for the millions of immigrants keeping our country functioning during this pandemic and for the American public who overwhelmingly support this initiative. We can and must create history together by ensuring legalization through bi-partisanship or reconciliation.”
Todd Schulte, Fwd.us CEO, said: “Congress must pass a pathway to citizenship for dreamers, TPS holders, Farmworkers, and other essential workers immediately, whether through reconciliation or other means. The recent ruling by Judge Hanen in Texas has only made this imperative more urgent, as tens of thousands of immigrants essential to the response and recovery from COVID-19 are at risk of losing their jobs and being separated from their families and communities. This is the year we will get this done and I’m so thankful to stand with those who would be directly impacted by this legislation, including the business and faith communities, as well as with Senators Schumer, Durbin, and Coons who have been incredible champions for a pathway to citizenship.”
Ana Navarro, political commentator: ”Where there’s a will there’s a way….We need to find a vehicle to do this, hopefully a bipartisan vehicle. Whether it’s a reconciliation or a bill, whether it is a Tesla or a Mack truck, we need to find a vehicle because we have held these young people hostage for political purposes. Let’s get this done.”
The press conference is part of ABIC’s Week of Action on Capitol Hill and across the country, calling for immediate action on immigration this year. The group supports bipartisan immigration solutions including the Durbin-Graham Dream Act of 2021, the Bennet-Crapo Farm Workforce Modernization Act, and the SECURE Act.
Immigrants in the U.S.:
- Earn $1.3 trillion annually
- Contribute $329 billion in local and federal taxes.
- Wield $927 billion in spending power
The American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) promotes common sense immigration reform that advances economic competitiveness, provides companies with both the high-skilled and low-skilled talent they need, and allows the integration of immigrants into our economy as consumers, workers, entrepreneurs, and citizens.