Huge in dairying, Idaho is tiny on the national political stage. Nevertheless, its four-person delegation in Washington, D.C. — two senators and just two congressmen — is in a great position to give the dairy industry a loud voice in the immigration policy reform debate.
It is a voice that Idaho is already raising on behalf of agriculture.
Idaho’s Mike Crapo is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and sits on the Border Security and Immigration subcommittee. Fellow Idahoan Raul Labrador is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and is vice chairman of the Border Security and Immigration subcommittee. Both are longtime supporters of agriculture.
Charlie Garrison, a top dairy industry lobbyist in Washington, says the Idaho delegation is uniquely positioned to understand the issue on behalf of agriculture and dairy farmers and to be helpful because of those roles in the House and Senate.
Garrison, Idaho Dairymen’s Association (IDA), and representatives from three national immigration policy organizations were in Boise recently for a press conference to discuss the immigration crisis, the harm that continuing to do nothing is having on rural economies and the political opportunity to fix it that is at hand.
Time is running out fast, though. Garrison said tax reform is the next big priority on lawmakers’ plates, so immigration policy could come next. But it is crucial that it happens in 2017 because in January Washington’s focus will shift dramatically to midterm elections that take place in 2018.
Bon Naerebout, IDA executive director, said, “Part of what we need to do is elevate the debate so that instead of immigration being a back burner issue in Washington, D.C., it becomes a front burner issue.”
Garrison added that, “We need to keep the focus on being ready and working with a lot of different organizations nationwide to convince Congress that this is something that should be dealt with, that it’s good policy, and it’s the compassionate thing to do. Business clearly needs this. Farmers know and other businesses know there are no other workers coming behind people to look for work, so this issue needs to be fixed, and it needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.”
The 30-minute press conference on immigration policy reform can be seen at this link.