Immigration reform: A small business perspective

It is a false choice to think the immigration debate is a battle between America being a welcoming society and being a nation of laws. To those intent on building a wall or deporting illegal immigrants I would ask you to consider — it can be both.

Immigration now joins gay marriage and flag burning as mere show issues. One difference, however, is that immigration has real economic and deep public consequences. Caught in the frenzy of midterm elections — we find ourselves here in Wilsonville today.

The Oregon Association of Nurseries and the American Nursery & Landscape Association strongly support immigration reform legislation recently passed by the U.S. Senate.

When the House and Senate move to conference on their respective approaches to immigration policy, we urge passage of a comprehensive immigration bill that achieves three important features:

1. Establishes border security,

2. Provides for an effective guest worker program (to supply much-needed workers for agriculture), and

3. Adjusts the status of undocumented immigrant workers with an established record of work in agriculture.

In our view the Senate approach provides the most complete response to the chaos that is immigration policy by strengthening border security and sensibly addressing the problem of the 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants now working in the United States. In contrast, passage of HR 4437 would do severe harm to Oregon’s nursery and greenhouse industry.

This whole debate comes down to a couple of items:

1. The issue is one made by the US Government. Had Congress enacted this reform act in 1986, we would have fewer illegal immigrants than we do now.

2. Agriculture is price sensitive. By taking away agriculture’s labor force, you will put farms out of business. They have a hard enough time competing on the global and domestic markets — faced with high transportation costs, increased competition and add to it – a shortage of labor.

3. The politics of fear. We are seeing the impact of fear when several strawberry growers are not getting their berries harvested due to a shortage of workers.

4. The great melting pot. It is my personal view that we should focus our energy on securing our borders, deporting criminal aliens who commit crimes, and open our border up. Pre-1926 law — which produced the sons and daughters labeled our greatest generation.

What we need is a system. One that embraces reality of undocumented workers that are here, one that allows movement between the border to allow workers to see their families, one that acknowledges that this group of workers are filling jobs that Americans do not do.

The temporary worker program is not amnesty. I was around when Amnesty was discussed and frankly it was not a failure of the legalization program — rather the lack of a long-term solution to our farm labor needs. The temporary worker program outlined in the Senate version is not easy. It provides for earned status for qualifying farm workers willing to pay a fine and meet tough conditions. It is not automatic citizenship, and unlike amnesty, if you rob banks or break laws — you are not allowed to stay.

But we are talking about more than jobs of farm workers. The industries that depend on this work force create thousands of jobs — as suppliers, equipment manufacturing, marketing, packaging and processing, transportation, and lending insurance. Many economists tell us that there are 4 jobs created for every farm worker job.

Agriculture in the United States would fail if we did not have an adequate workforce to get product to market. Don’t buy into the fear, the short term political gain, but look at the long-term health of industries, and the greatness that is America.

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Posted by at 06:41 | Posted in Measure 37 | 17 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Bad Man

    Thanks for your observations. But it’s VERY CLEAR UNLESS SOMETHING SERIOUS IS DONE TO SECURE OUR SOUTERN BORDER all this talk about immigration reform is just HOT AIR. And quite frankly, I really don’t give a rip whether some landscape grower has a “Labor Shortage”. If those plants cost me twice what I paid last year it won’t matter much to me or anyone else – since most of these things only get bought on a seasonal basis. The same applies to most produce. I really don’t care if my melons cost me $1.50/lb. vs. .49/lb. I only buy one or two a week during the warm weather months and it’s hardly a budget buster. Screw these whiny ass farmers. And as far as I’m concerned, the sooner we start rounding up these ILLEGALS at gunpoint and shipping them back to Mexico in a locked boxcar the better. As the saying goes – How do you deport ILLEGALS? – “One at a time!”

  • The ideas that Mr. Stone pushes are ones that I would expect from someone in the agriculture sector. But again we must look at the real issues that illegals cause. First of all the very fact that they are here is a security risk, most of us know and understand that. We see time and time again that immigrants who take the time, and resources to come into this country legally are the real victims here. There is no longer any incentive to work within the law, it is in fact more cost effective to come using illegal means. Secondly there is a problem caused by the fact that we live in a society that is so overly politically correct and afraid of ticking each other off that no agency will deny illegals service unless they are forced to. We saw this when the Bush administration tried to set some sensible rules on restricting illegal immigrants from getting public benefits, the Oregon health plan comes out and basically says they will do “Whatever it takes” to keep people on the plan. That is a classic example of a State Agency failing its constituents. In response to the point that we cant afford crops when we pay standard wages it is very simple. We already are subsidizing the industry through increased taxes that support social programs that these immigrants abuse. In addition as a strong believer in capitalism the market will adjust to make these goods affordable one way or another. My final point is that when government fails us in securing our border as they have for the past 20+yrs, we must at least allow private citizens who wish to solve the problem to do so. We have seen that the minute man movement has been extremely beneficial even in its limited capacity. Imagine how useful this group would be they were even nominally trained and armed by a limited government program.

  • The political reality of the debate is that we cannot have reform without it being comprehensive. If congress forces the senate to pass enforcement only reform then we sacrifice the vital part of our economy that is our agriculture. The price sensative nature of our agriculture means that as there is a sudden increase in the cost of labor, then there will also be a sudden increase in the cost of goods produced. This occurs because labor is a prime example of supply and demand, as the supply decreases and demand stays the same, cost increases.

    The other problem with enforcement only is that it too costly to deport 11-12 million individuals. Congress should pass reform that make it more difficult to hire illegal aliens but responsibily correspond that with a program that allows for that work force to continue contributing to the economy while making sure, through a comprehensive enforcement plan, that we only have documented workers in America. The portion that makes it more difficult to hire illegals is through verifying name and social. I urge the house to follow the senate’s path and pass comprehensive reform.

  • Don Smith

    Bad Man:

    I don’t want to label you clueless, but I don’t know how else to read you. If, for example, Oregon strawberries don’t get harvested, you can still buy strawberries. From Chile. An Oregon farmer goes under. Your berries cost more. We lose.

    “One at a time”? You’re kidding, right? If we bring so much as a busload to the border, and the Mexicans say, “Eh, bato, whatchoo got in dere?” And we say, “We have your citizens who need to go back to Mexico.” They say, “Sorry, you cannot cross into our country.” What now? Invade? Drop them from planes flown without permission across their border?

    If Mexico is “dumping” illegals, as is often stated, they can prevent us from returning those people.

    What I believe we need is to allow anyone from Mexico, Canada, or the US travel freely from one country to the other.

    Radical Crazy Talk! you say. No, it’s common sense. Now, we have hundreds or thousands crossing through the deserts illegally, risking their lives, while the drug runners and sex-trade traffickers hide among them, not to mention the threat of al Qaeda. Who would risk their life to go to work and then go home? No one. However, if anyone can come in, work a job, above the table, on the books, and pay taxes, without risking their life, a large number would go home at the end of the season. It’s the promise of Nafta. We’re not going to stop them from finding a way in. What we’re really doing is preventing them from going home. They bring their family instead of returning to their family.

    Anyone sneaking across the border would then be obviously up to no good. But all the people out there just trying to get by and make a living for their family would be allowed to do just that. Most immigrant families are english-only by the third generation. Most come here to escape abject poverty. They live here in relative poverty under threat of arrest and deportation and that’s BETTER than what they left.

    We would do well to take an objective look at the statistics, not the hype, and see what an open-border policy would produce. It’s not intuitive to think that open borders would reduce immigration, but it’s true. These people waving the Mexican flag don’t necessarily want to immigrate and become citizens. Don’t make them. Let them make their money and go home. Just like the people who work in Portland but live in Vancouver. Why should Mexicans be any different. Surely, the average Vancouverite has a different cultural background than the average “Creative-class” Portlander, but there aren’t any riots or protests there.

    Is it just because they speak a funny language? Or have darker skin? Or are shorter than most of us?

    The statistics show that illegal immigraation is NOT a huge draing on our resources. Drain, maybe, net benefit, maybe. We dont’ really know. In border towns, it’s a huge drain because of the laws. They create a perverse result.

    Check out these links (cut and paste into your browser):

    Allow yourself for just one minute to be open to the possibility that a wall and deportations aren’t the best answer. Then discuss.

  • Marvin McConoughey

    Mr. Stone advocates immigration policies that would provide help to his economic interest while injuring the long term future of America. We already lack sufficient energy supplies to meet our needs. Rising population worsens that growing problem. Worse, the poorly educated immigrants that emplorers seek impose major costs on education, law enforcement, and other social service sectors. We already have state and national water resource issues and the added population being advocated would further add to our developing water problems. One should not ignore the cultural propensity for present illegal immigrants to have large families. Mr. Stone advocates a “beggar thy future policy” that would have dire consequences for our national future. He is also wrong in thinking that “The whole debate comes down to a couple of items…”

  • Don Smith

    So, Marvin, you didn’t read any of those articles I linked, did you? Instead, you continue to spout the “lock-down” crowd’s talking points without a single citation to a fact. Classic.

  • Marvin McConoughey

    Don, one of the mistakes that immigration advocates make is to surmise that those who oppose large scale immigration are rather clueless. The problems with illegal immigration of the scale recently experienced, and with any large scale immigration, is that we are a nation of limits. Limited land, water, and energy. When we were a thinly populated nation with unused natural resources then we could achieve a better life by allowing immigration to exploit surplus resources. Most of us have immigrant ancestors. Situations change and become more complex. Immigrant additions of cheap low skilled labor is no longer a long term national gain. This reality is explored at some length in “The Fiscal Effects of U.S. Immigration: A Generational Accounting Perspective,” by Alan Auerbach and Philip Oregopolos in the publication “Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 14. It is published by the MIT Press.

  • Don Smith


    You still haven’t read the articles. I’m an open borders guy and here’s why:

    Right now, every single Mexican who risks life and limb to get into this country stays. The 12 million or so that have snuck in are all staying, because it makes no sense to risk their lives to leave if they ever want to come back. Prior to the 1970’s crackdown on immigration (which failed and ultimately led to the 1986 amnesty bill Lars hates so much), many of the workers came up during harvest time, made a bunch of money, and went home to their families. They didn’t try to bring them all up, because they didn’t have to.

    Some people were going to emigrate, but a substantial percentage wouldn’t. I’m not arguing that anyone who wants to should be able to emigrate to this country, but anyone should be allowed to come and work here. If you open the borders to Mexicans to work here legally, on the books, then we know who’s here, they get withholding taken out, they pay SS taxes, we can garnish their wages if they skip out on a hospital bill, they can get on a legal path to citizenship should they choose to do so, and it’s all in the sunshine.

    Now, we have a black market of humans who are exploited and therefore feel justified in exploiting our loopholes.

    You are talking about not wanting Mexicans here on paths to citizenship. I’m suggesting that locking down the borders will create more illegal aliens working harder to scam the system, creating a need for yet another amnesty bill 20 years from now when 30 million people are here illegally.

    Open the borders, let people come and go, make them work in the sunshine. Well, they already work in the sunshine. Make them work on the books. Let employers hire anyone who will do the job at a market-set rate. Don’t give handouts to illegals, just let people work legally. The criminals will be the only ones left sneaking across the border, so stopping the flow of drugs and gang members will be easier, not harder.

    I don’t want 12 MM more immigrants next year, just like you don’t. But killing the black market only works when you create a legal one.

  • Marvin McConoughey

    “Right now, every single Mexican who risks life and limb to get into this country stays,” I have no statistics on the percentage of recent immigrants who are or will be returning to their country of origin, but is it plausible that not one recent immigrant has returned? Not for weddings, funerals, marriage? Reference your comments on the need to create a legal market for labor, it already exists. We have a relatively open market system that allows employers to hire legal workers at wages that will attract them. Some supporters of high immigration seek cheap human labor. In the past when labor costs seemed high, Americans invented labor saving machinery, developed new crop harvesting techniques and even created new plant varieties conducive to machine harvesting. That route holds out more hope for a sustainable national future than a permanent policy of adding population via immigration.

    I had read the articles you referenced and can critique them if you wish.

  • Don Smith


    I’d love to hear your criticism of the articles. I’m not asserting that they’re perfect, or that open borders is without flaw. I’m always looking for honest debate to sharpen my position. And I’m open to being swayed on the issue. I have no bias against a closed-door policy save to say that I have come to believe that, like other government attempts to stop things that are beyond their control (poverty, drugs, gambling, etc.), this effort will fail because it is powered by human ingenuity. Working in this country is worth all costs to Mexicans. $1500 for a coyote and a true risk to your life, just to get here. And, yes, I think that very few have gone home for a wedding or funeral. The costs are just too high. BUt even if a bunch have, most haven’t.

    Again, I’m arguing that most WOULD go home if the borders were open and people could come and work here. Not emigrate. Not become citizens, but just work here. THAT’S the promise of open borders. Not that all these Mexicans will come here to stay, but that they will come and go as they please.

    And no, you aren’t going to get Americans to pick tomatos and strawberries. To think you will is to not have been in that world. In Oregon, tree farms rely on migrant workers because even offering good pay, ($15/hour) they can’t get Americans to show up reliably.

    And if you think that cherries are just going to have to cost more, you’re right. They’ll come from some other country, Oregon cherry farmers will go out of business. And they’ll cost more.

    To reiterate, open borders means adding LESS people to your population. Less, not more. That’s my hypothesis. Critique that hypothesis, not the hypothesis that open borders means 10’s of millions of Mexicans will become US citizens or permanent residents.

    • Linda

      Well, I have skimmed these remarks. I have been educating myself to this very controversal issue.
      On comments above: you can research and locate the same information I am going to give you here.
      When one illegal becomes legal, they then can bring ALL family from their country. Legalize 20 million, they can then legally bring an additional 200 million (if each bring their mother, father, 4 brothers and sisters, 2 aunts and 2 uncles). Do the math. For every 1 illegal they catch at the border, 2 to 8 get through DAILY.
      The rich don’t have to live in the neighborhoods with them; they are living in a different world far away from any effectsOur natural resources, gas oil heat cooling food cannot hold that amount of people.
      All the illegals do not come for a job. Have you seen the pictures of Houston, Chicago, E. LA? They have not come here to be Americans….these cities have become the United States of Mexico.
      As far as farmers, construction, anybody who has built their business on the backs of these illegals should go face in the dirt. I don’t feel one bit sorry for them! They are breaking the law the minute they hire them.
      Guess what? If there is a shortage of vegetables, people will revert to the old fashion way of eating, GROW THEIR OWN.
      The cost of anchor babies are in the billions per year nationwide.
      Emergency medical care and educating illegals children have been mandated by our supreme courts of the United States of America. These are additional billions every year! Hello????
      My property taxes pay for these programs and I don’t qualify for a thing….I am a 57 year old medically retired due to a disability. I either pay my taxes or loose my house. Value has gone down $30,000 in the past 4 years due to illegal Mexicans moving into the Salem area! I can’t afford to sell out and move; I don’t have enough equity to pay it all off and have money to go buy somewhere else.
      Our government from Bush down has been fighting since the first Bush administration to keep the illegals here.
      And PLEASE, do not call them immigrants. The dictionary defination is someone from another country to come here LEGALLY! They are by all legal definations illegal aliens.
      Here in Oregon, Senators Smith, and Wyden, and all but 1 state representative has voted on bills that would keep them here.
      They are each one breaking our current federal immigration laws. I have in my hand 45 bills she has voted and all for the illegals! Smith and Wyden, too. Our Governor is right in there with them.
      Unbelievable! They all swear to uphold the laws, -protect our borders and constitution of the United’s in their oath they take when entering office. They are not doing it; like so many others nationwide.
      At least other cities aren’t waiting on the Bush or our own state politicians anymore; they are going to their city council and having local laws enacted and enforcing them! I can’t even get our local Salem city council to call me back.
      Wednesday morning, Darlene Hooley is in Salem at the Salem Senior Center at 9:30 AM to speak and there will be those of us against legalizing immigration that will be there. Come and ask her yourself.

      Another very unhappy voter and sick of our country giving over to the illegals and I am paying for it.

  • Marvin McConoughey

    Critique: Reason magazine published four essays, May through July, on immigration, primarily referring to illegal immigration.

    In order, the first essay on Jesse Walker, April 21, comments on the plight of abused illegal immigrants. Walker bemoans the fact that when discovered, illegals are made to return to their home country. It is a weak argument because the route by which an illegal immigration is discovered, barring disallowed tactics, provides no protective coloration to any illegal act found. Walker concludes by voicing support for legalizing the presence of those who are now here illegally.

    Cathy Young, April 25, reminds us that immigration used to be easier. So it was, and for valid reasons. She is on weaker ground when she makes an appeal to personal sympathy for those who are here already and doing well. Ms. Young does allow that we need better border control but she is also concerned about inhumane treatment, without commenting on the fact that being here in an illegal status provides fertile ground for abusive treatment. Her overall conclusion is that America “should not turn its back on the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It has strong emotional appeal, but not one that can disguise the vast differences between the national conditions that existed then and those that face our present, and future. Those who favor help to the world’s huddled masses should recognize that we lack the ability to absorb even a significant fraction of them.

    Shikha Dalmia argues, May 1, among other points, that illegals pay more taxes than often believed. The factuality of her claim would depend on what one expected them to pay and that certainly would vary but her point seems defensible, if one accepts that we know how many illegal immigrants exist. The tax argument does not seem critical to the broader public policy issue of illegal immigration. Still, the writer allows that a third do not pay taxes. Neither Democrats and Republicans oppose withholding public services, according to Dalmia. That seems generally true, though I have read of exceptions in Oregon. The author’s thought that many immigrants don’t come here to mooch seems plausible. It is just as plausible that some come here for the lucrative crime opportunities. The writer believes that working aliens have SS and Medicare taxes withheld. Some do, no doubt. But illegals are in a poor position to insist that taxes be paid by their employers. The problem found with nannies was that undocumented workers were not having their taxes withheld, and that problem seems unlikely to be confined to that one worker group. Overall, the writer attempts to show that some taxes are getting paid and the reader is welcome to infer that illegal immigration is therefore less unacceptable. I disagree.

    Kerry Howley, May 2, uses a bit of sarcasm to set the stage for his argument. He then moves on to criticize Congress for making legalization of illegals difficult. The larger issue may be that Congress reflects the will of the people who oppose high illegal immigration and do not favor later forgiveness once they have successfully broken our laws. Howley is on better ground when he argues that an effective system to account for illegals would become bureaucratic and costly plus have many problems. He is right, of course, and a better action would be to convince Mexico to enforce its own borders and to actively discourage its population from illegal movement into other countries. Absent that, the nation can choose to lose immigration control on the premise that it is too hard to enforce. It is not a response that I favor nor, I think, most Americans favor. Border control is and has been an essential duty of governments.

    The four authors universally fail to address the long term negative impacts of rising population. Nor do they provide any suggestions as to how we are going to meet our future energy needs, even at our present population levels. The problem that most illegals come with low education skills poses daunting problems of expanding our education system. But no temporary cost problem is as important as the danger that we will expand our population beyond any hope of supplying generous amounts of energy, land, water, and housing. We can subsist at a far higher population than now but it is unlikely that we will enjoy a high quality of life if that happens. What kind of life do we want our grandchildren and their offspring to enjoy?

  • Don Smith


    Try these Tim Cavanaugh ones. I think they cover my particular argument more than the others.,0,6429773.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions

    However, you’re still assuming a significant population increase would be the result. Even if it were, do you think Mexicans are going to cause us to run out of energy? I find that laughable, since the energy they use here is energy not used in Mexico, which is still energy traded somewhere, and therefore produced somewhere.

    Again, taking your assumption to be true, nannies would be paid and treated better, and taxes would be withheld more readily if said nannies weren’t part of a black market. Or lawn-care guys. Much of the migrant population is entrepreneurial. They cut your lawn so that you don’t have to. They raise your kids and clean your house so you don’t spend an extra hour a day dropping them off and picking them up at an offsite daycare. They pick the fruit our farmers grow. They sell tacos on carts downtown.

    What opportunities do we have for our time now that these services are being done by others rather than ourselves? Now, I don’t hire Mexicans to cut MY lawn, but that’s only because I still take the 20 minutes a week to do it myself, and I don’t care that much if my lawn isn’t spectacular. But I’ll tell you, if my wife insisted we have a Better Homes winner landscape, I’d hire it out to whomever I could find. Local college kid, great! Mexican? Sure! Russian guy? No problem.

    But it’s not worth $200 a month for Chemlawn. So for $50 a month, maybe I could get an independent (regardless of citizenship) contractor to some and maintain what I’m too lazy or busy to do myself. And maybe I can play a round of golf for once. Or take my kids fishing. Or stay an extra two hours at work and make some more money (need a mortgage?).

    Taxes and public assistance aside, do you think the economy is better or worse off? I’d argue it’s better because money slosing around the economy creates wealth. People providing services create wealth.

    I guess I’m also not of the zero-sum mindset that many people have. I believe wealth, energy, water, and the like can be created where none existed before. Look at Las Vegas. The human mind is so ingenious, we’ve created a city where nothing but desert once stood. We can harness an atom to power an entire grid. I believe we will simply think our way past our water and energy shortages. We always have and I believe we always will.

    But Tim Cavanaugh’s article is more to my point, and I had trouble finding it originally on Reason’s site.

  • Marvin McConoughey

    Yes, Don, I do assume that a significant domestic population increase will result from immigration. Specifically, from the magnitude of immigration necessary to meet cheap labor demands of present employers of illegal immigrants. As we spend money to bring presently illegal immigrants up to American standards of learning and acculturation, they will swiftly become too costly to merit the term cheap labor. New immigration will be necessary, and so on.

    Illegal immigrant will not cause us to run out of energy because we are unlikely to ever consume the last calorie of energy, but added population will cause us to more swiftly consume our remaining low cost petroleum, gas, and coal resources. Stopping mass immigration will not solve our emerging energy woes, but will slow the oncoming crisis.

    America should not be Mexico’s, or any other nation’s, population safety valve. The human species must someday come to grips with the costs of permanent population expansion on a finite planet. Mexico’s use of America as a container for excess population puts off the need for Mexico to constrain its population growth.

    Legalizing pesent illegals will not solve the quest to hire cheap nannies. Nannies are available now from within America and legally from other nations. The appeal of hiring illegals to be nannies has been their very low cost. Legitimizing illegals would act to drive up their labor cost. Thus, the market for hiring illegal immigrants on a temporary basis might continue to thrive despite letting some long term illegals gain legal status.

    Tim Cavanaugh argues that “an open borders policy encourages almost as many immigrants to go back home as to stay.” I don’t believe that, but if detailed current studies proving that point are available I will study them.

    You advise that immigration, as advocated, helps the economy. I believe that the economy is not impressive at this stage of the business cycle and will shortly do even less well. However, added immigration does tend to create a short term stimulus, along with massive deficit spending, that can disguise longer term economic problems. The important fact is that we have departed that stage of history where surplus resources needed only labor to create a stronger long term economy. In short, population growth creates more long term problems than it solves because we can no longer supply low cost energy, land, and water to create a productive mix with higher population. Note that agricultural interests pay little for the labor leaving it to the larger society to absorb the remaining costs of illegals.

  • Jack Kevorkian

    The simplest solution is this: execute illegal immigrants. and execute those who hire them.


  • Marvin McConoughey

    What happened to post #15, in reference to which I received a Catalyst email advising me of its posting?

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