The so-called “reddest state in the union” is jumping on board immigration reform, at least for agricultural workers.
Idaho Second District Rep. Mike Simpson is co-sponsoring a purple bill. Last month, he joined 19 other Republicans and 24 Democrats as co-sponsors of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.
Forty Idaho businesses and organizations back the bill that would benefit both farmers and foreign agricultural workers.
Currently, farmers are prohibited from hiring foreign workers for year-round positions. The bill would change the federal H-2A visa program to allow that.
It would also allow current undocumented ag workers to earn legal status and require agricultural businesses to use the federal E-verify system to ensure that workers hired are in the country legally.
The chaos in today’s immigration system has hurt agriculture in Idaho, left crops unharvested and reduced dairy herds. Until now, the situation had elicited only grumbling from farmers and processors who were unable to find enough workers.
The bill is a good first step toward reforming the broken immigration system. Its narrow focus on agriculture and its bi-partisan backing make it more likely to garner approval.
The bill addresses the realities of the nation’s worker shortage and the difficulty of filling jobs that require hard labor. It would end the cat-and-mouse game that businesses and illegal workers play with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The color purple looks good in a nation that for too long has been riven by the angry divide between red states and blue states, Republicans and Democrats. Purple could and should become the color of success.