The current debate over immigration reform in Washington D.C. is important not only to Latinos, but to the entirety of our nation. It's important to all of us not only because of the social issues at stake, but also because of the economic opportunities that will be afforded us should we institute a modern immigration system.
According to the Partnership for a New American Economy, one in three American businesses would cease operations or significantly curtail them if they did not have access to a readily available foreign-born labor pool. These are not workers that compete with domestic-born workers, these are workers that compliment the work we already do here. They enhance our economy and do not take jobs from Americans.
In agriculture, our farmers and ranchers also depend on a steady stream of foreign-born workers to ensure they have the necessary labor resources to harvest the crops that feed our country and feed the world.
Our current immigration laws make it very difficult for business and agricultural producers to secure the workers they need to fuel our economy. It's inefficient and expensive. The upshot of which is that when labor demands are highest, it's often the hardest to get the help they need.
Streamlining the temporary worker visa program is essential. We must demand that our congressional representatives create a new system that is both flexible and cost efficient. In agriculture alone, according to a survey of member farmers and ranchers conducted by the American Farm Bureau, the lack of access to an adequate workforce cost the American economy between $5 and $9 billion. And, for every one on-farm worker, two to three other jobs are created throughout the economy for domestic workers, often in higher-paying professions like shipping, transportation, and farm implement sales.
Immigration reform should not be a debate about what it will cost US citizens to reform our broken system. Plenty of data exists that shows strong economic benefits to all of us if we have a modern immigration system. The debate should be about the best ways to utilize our immigration system to help pull our country out of the economic doldrums we've struggled under for the past several years.
As Congress returns to Washington in a few weeks to once again do the people's business, we all need them to focus on real solutions that move our nation forward, both economically and socially. We need meaningful immigration reform signed into law this year.