Immigration issue affects local businesses

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 19, 2006

Legal immigration is nothing new. It’s basically what has built our country.

Throughout our history, any time workers were needed to help businesses grow or to homestead land, people have been recruited from other countries.

The difference now is that we no longer need to populate the West, and we want legal immigrants to fill our jobs.

It makes perfect sense that workers should be legal, and that only citizens should enjoy benefits provided by tax payers.

But it’s not that easy.

Local businessman Jay Minter says he’s “pretty pleased” with the version of the immigration bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The problem, Minter says is that some politicians are “acting out of their own selfish political interests.”

As a business owner who hires legal immigrants, Minter would like to see more input from the businesses directly, and less from politicians.

It’s difficult to juggle the demands of running a farm – and needing the laborers – with the legal requirements, and the possibility of someone having a fake green card.

Minter’s head field worker Arturo Hernandez says he likes the idea of President Bush’s guest worker program.

“Guys can work and go back to their families,” he said. “If you give them residence, they’ll forget about their families. With guest workers, you know for sure they’re going back.”

Many businesses in Dallas County, as well as throughout Alabama, depend on immigrant labor to keep their operations going.

It’s not just on the farm, either. Hotels and restaurants along the Alabama Gulf Coast have a huge influx of international workers. And contractors across the country rely on immigrant labor.

It’s essential that our elected representatives listen to the business owners who rely on these workers.

Solving the issue of illegal immigration should be a priority for our government, but shutting down the idea of guest worker programs, or attempting to deport hard-working individuals is not a solution either.