As we approach yet another round of debate on the need for immigration reform, Nebraskans are understandably confused by the competing and contradictory information they hear on the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
Make no mistake, Nebraska business, the Nebraska economy and all Nebraskans will benefit from comprehensive immigration reform.
Look around Nebraska and you will see immigrants who are essential to labor-intensive industries such as roofing and landscaping. They are the backbone of Nebraska’s food production, processing and distribution chain, working in livestock feedlots, meat packing plants and restaurants. If you live in a building with a roof or ate a meal today you were likely the beneficiary of immigrant labor.
A stable and well-trained work force is essential to Nebraska employers. However, the current immigration system hinders Nebraska employers from maintaining a stable workforce and hurts law-abiding Nebraska businesses. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, even with a visa category for seasonal agriculture workers, this visa process is “unworkable for most employers.”
This is particularly relevant in Nebraska, in that there is nothing “seasonal” about feeding or caring for livestock. Animals need care year round, seven days a week. In our rural and urban communities, many gifted workers leave the U.S. and seek employment in other countries because the highly skilled worker visa category requires they wait 10 years for a green card.
Immigrants flourish in Nebraska because of our state’s support for an entrepreneurial spirit. A drive through south Omaha or rural Lexington will confirm new immigrants create vibrant communities and are economic engines. Immigrant-owned businesses employ one in 10 U.S. workers according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Immigrant families purchase groceries, medication and clothing, creating further demand, job growth and raising tax revenue.
As a result of immigrants, Nebraska businesses grow and expand. These businesses purchase Nebraska products, further stimulating Nebraska’s economy, and contributing to the tax base. Those who are concerned about state and federal budget deficits will be heartened to know that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, comprehensive immigration reform would decrease the federal deficit by almost $1 trillion and increase tax revenue to the states by almost $750 billion over the next 20 years — again good for business and for the economy.
Comprehensive immigration reform is vital to Nebraska’s long term economic security. It will contribute to an efficient, consistent and reliable skilled workforce. Immigration reform will benefit employers, businesses and our state.
Join us in support of comprehensive immigration reform that keeps families together, meets the needs of Nebraska’s employers and allows current and future immigrants to continue to contribute to Nebraska’s skilled workforce and stimulate Nebraska’s economy.
Jim Partington is executive director of the Nebraska Restaurant Association. Dick Campbell is an owner of Campbell's Nurseries in Lincoln. Kathleen Grant is co-chair of Omaha Together One Community. The Nebraska Cattlemen and Nebraska State Dairy Association also have approved this column.