To the editor:
Last year, immigration reform gained a lot of national attention when the Senate passed a comprehensive bill designed to fix long-standing flaws in the system. Many expected a House version would soon follow. Unfortunately, politics can be difficult to predict, and efforts to reform the immigration system fell prey to the government shut-down and political in-fighting.
Fortunately, Congress has a second chance at reform this session, and Iowa lawmakers can make a big difference in getting the debate to the House floor.
Iowa’s workforce is 5 percent foreign born. While this may not seem like an overwhelming figure, these men and women contribute hundreds of millions to the state economy each year. Moreover, 42 percent of STEM graduates from Iowa’s research-intensive universities are non-native, as well as 50 percent of STEM Ph.D.s. Immigration reform would expand skilled worker visa programs, and allow our state to retain greater numbers of these highly talented individuals.
Immigration reform would also target temporary worker visa quotas, and this would positively impact our farm labor force. Iowa boasts more than 92,000 farms selling over $20 billion in ag products per year. More than 10 percent of farmworkers are non-citizen, and Iowa’s farmers have come to rely on their hard work and expertise. The expansion of the temporary worker visa program would benefit Iowa farmers, immigrant workers and the consumers who buy home-grown foodstuffs.
Immigration reform will not be a reality unless representatives like Tom Latham take a stand and demand change. It is time Congress tackle this important issue, and I hope we can count on our members of Congress to stand up for progress.