Immigration reform now

December 16, 2013 

Everyone knows that federal immigration policy is broken -- and even Band-Aids like H2A have limited value. Chris Eckert, president of Eckert's Country Store and Farms in Belleville, wrote an eye-opening guest column on Sunday about how the current U.S. immigration policy creates uncertainty for his farms and others.

H2A is a visa program designed to provide a legal path to hire migrant workers from other countries. But Eckert wrote that just 80,000 workers used the program this year, even though an estimated 2 million agriculture workers are in this country, most of them believed to be here illegally.

The H2A system would collapse if everyone used it; it is challenged to handle even that fraction of workers. The Government Accountability Office found that in fiscal 2011, 37 percent of the visa applications were processed after the deadline, which can be a serious problem for farms. They need the workers when harvest times dictate, not when the government gets around to it.

Rather than spend time fixing this one part of the puzzle, Congress needs to focus on comprehensive immigration reform. Both Republicans and Democrats are saying that immigration reform will be a priority in 2014.

About 12 million people live in this country illegally. Reform can't happen fast enough.

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