In a letter to Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Janet Napolitano, Senator Diane Feinstein (D–CA) has asked that DHS stop enforcing immigration law regarding farm workers:
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has wisely used its prosecutorial discretion to defer removal of young people who arrived in the United States without documentation as children.… I respectfully suggest that you adopt a similar policy of exercising prosecutorial discretion to defer enforcement against agricultural employers and workers.
In other words, “We already aren’t enforcing the law for some, so why can’t we keep doing it for others in order to help my state?”
California is the nation’s top producing agricultural state. With approximately 81,000 farms, from Napa to Fresno, the state produces everything from grapes and oranges to figs and avocados. During peak harvest time, the $44 billion industry employs more than 400,000 workers.
For the second year in a row, however, farmers report experiencing shortages in workers. Many factors are likely at play here, including increased economic opportunity in Mexico and the resurgence of the construction industry in the U.S. Senator Feinstein, however, seems to place the blame almost solely on the Obama Administration’s attempts to enforce the law against agricultural workers who are illegal immigrants.
Her solution: stop enforcement. In fact, not only is the Senator calling for the abuse of prosecutorial discretion to benefit agricultural workers in her state, but she was one of the chief authors of portions of the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill that would grant permanent amnesty to agricultural workers across the U.S.
Rather than creating a magnet for trapping low-skilled labor in a cycle of poverty through amnesty for illegal immigrants, the U.S. should take steps that work for both laborers and employers by reforming our legal immigration system. One key component would be building an effective temporary worker program to allow those who seek to come here to work to do so legally and fill important niches in the national workforce. This would supply employers with the employees they need to help grow the economy and create more jobs.
The Obama Administration has already abused its “prosecutorial discretion” when it stopped enforcing parts of the immigration laws and implemented by regulation what several previous Congresses chose not to legislate. Instead of following the appeals of special interests and tolerating yet another attempt to undermine U.S. laws, Congress should pursue border security and immigration reform that respects the rule of law and strengthens the economy.