YUMA, Ariz. - It was last week when President Donald Trump joined with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) to endorse the RAISE Act. The RAISE Act would reduce immigration levels and the amount of green cards awarded to nationals each year. All on the basis of a merit-based system.
“This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy,” President Donald Trump said last week.
The rhetoric on a potential new immigration policy could impact the agriculture industry, especially here in Arizona. John Boelts, a local crop farmer from the Arizona Farm Bureau said that the agriculture industry needs intensive laborers.
“Crops we produce here are very labor intensive. They require that specialized, quality human touch to be able to harvest and manage that crop properly…" Boelts added "we rely on those people everyday".
The RAISE Act suggests that those who want to come to the United States must demonstrate job skills that will add to the economy. Boelts believes there's a misconception when it comes to workers in the fields.
“There’s a misnomer. A lot of people like to refer to the folks who work out in the fields with us as unskilled, labor, they’re very much mistaken,” Boelts said.
It's not necessarily the RAISE Act that will impact agriculture the most. Boelts said that immigration policies for the past 30 years are impacting agriculture to this day, including a shortage of workers, especially here in Arizona.
“The immigration policies that were put into effect in the 80’s that we’re still living with today, they get massaged and caressed by various administrations as they go through the White House. Unfortunately, none of it seems to get better because none of it focuses on industry,” Boelts mentioned.
Boelts wants lawmakers to listen to the agriculture industry when it comes to policies that will better serve the industry and that will implement a legal workforce that would be beneficial to both agriculture and the national interest.