WOOSTER, Ohio — A group of business and political leaders, including State Rep. Terry Boose, R-Norwalk, praised U.S. House Speaker John Boehner for announcing the Republican Party’s immigration reform priorities during a press call with reporters Feb. 4.
Boehner announced his party’s plan Jan. 28 at a House retreat in Cambridge, Mass.
The plan would provide a path toward legalizing undocumented workers, but only after they pay appropriate fines and meet certain criteria related to English and American Civics. The Republican plan does not grant citizenship, a key difference between the Senate plan, which the full Senate approved in June of 2013 as part of its own immigration reform bill.
Boose represents Ohio’s 57th district, which includes Huron County, home to the community of Celeryville — where a majority of Ohio’s immigrant labor is employed.
Boose called Boehner’s decision to take up immigration “very encouraging” and said the GOP is “moving in the right direction.”
Two of the farms in Boose’s district, Buurma Farms and Wiers Farm — employ a combined 1,000-plus immigrant workers during the peak growing season. They also farm in other states.
Both farms were mentioned in our Jan. 30 feature story on immigration.
Boose said farmers are struggling to get enough workers when they need them, and just this past year, some farmers in his district had to leave crops in the fields and chop them up, because they could not get them harvested.
That, Boose said, was a “horrible” outcome.
He reiterated a concern faced by farmers, that either the nation will import its workforce, or its food. To import food is bad economically, and could pose new food safety concerns.
“I’d prefer growing our own produce and supporting our own selves and not relying on other countries,” he said.
Boose was joined on the call by Chris Gibbs, farmer and chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party, and Rachael Vonderhaar, a farmer from Camden and vice president of Ohio Agri-Women.
All three are part of the Partnership for a New American Economy — a group of 500 Republican, Democratic and Independent mayors and business leaders who support immigration reform.
Gibbs said he was “extremely impressed” with Boehner’s willingness to consider such a difficult issue.
He said the decision shows that Republicans “can tackle these big issues and we’re not scared of it.”
Vonderhaar said farmers are looking for a more flexible guest-worker program that allows them to get workers to their farms “timely.”
Farmers say the current H-2A Temporary Guest Worker program is too cumbersome and often takes several weeks before they get the workers they need.
She said farmers also want the immigrants to be able to visit their family members — something that today’s laws make difficult.
“We appreciate that speaker Boehner is willing to take up such a large issue,” she said.
She is also helping spread the word about immigration reform through social media, through the hashtag #iFarmImmigration month — a national initiative to get the word out.
Agriculture leaders will continue to meet with members of Congress this month about immigration, and their progress will be documented on the website: www.iamimmigration.org.