Working on Immigration Reform One Piece at a Time

US Senator Thom Tillis from North Carolina is in the state this week talking agricultural and other businesses about the H2B and other guest worker programs and worker shortages.  Tillis outlines what he hopes to learn from the business owners he’s spending time with:

“We are trying to get a definitive answer to see which visas they have already issued or which applications they have granted that have not been used, so we can see if there is capacity to help take the pressure off the worker shortage that is only a few weeks away. We have been promised this information just about every day but haven’t seen anything.”

Several large sectors of the American economy, not just agriculture, have been lobbying for immigration and guest worker reform, and Tillis agrees that we’re no closer than we were five years ago:

“This is one of the true examples of bipartisan failure. In states like NC, where we have the economy moving in the right direction, there are certain jobs being left unfilled and it’s a threat to the ag industry. We are talking about legal immigration and granting work visas where we cannot find Americans to fill these jobs.”

Several ideas have been floated regarding guest worker reform as a part of immigration reform, and Tillis feels fixing the problems that most urgent first might be a better approach:

“I think we need some of the mistakes are trying to do everything at once. We need to deal with some of the immediate problems like worker shortages and make the problem over time reduced in size. In the past the bill takes a life of its own and there is contention and nothing gets done.”

It’s been said that many migrant workers want to come to the States, work, then return to their home country.  Tillis says this is probably the case in many instances:

“The immigration policy should ensure that the American worker has the first choice for these jobs, but many will still not be filled. Then you develop a policy to make sure we are not losing economic opportunities just because we don’t have the workers to fill jobs.”

Tillis closed with these thoughts:

“I think that we need to step up and lead. The problem has gotten worse. This is difficult and tough to understand and it’s a contentious subject. But we need to fix it.”

Congressman Thom Tillis from North Carolina.


A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.

4 comments on “Working on Immigration Reform One Piece at a Time
  1. L.C. Byrd says:

    This artice is so poorly written gramatically that the point of it is lost. Additionally, the topic of this article was not properly researched. The H-2B program is for temporary non-agricultural work. If you want to be taken seriously, do your homework and use spell check. Tillis obviously doesn’t know what he’s talking about either. Americans won’t work for cheap wages in tough jobs. We do not need more non-immigrant workers. We need to employ the people who are already here with a decent living wage!

    • Mr/Ms Byrd, please read my reply below to Mr. Turner regarding employing people already here. Even people with families to feed on public assistance didn’t want a job that required being in the hot sun for many hours a day picking fruit from the ground or trees or bushes.

      To me, it’s more a sad commentary on the ‘owed a living’ attitude of some of the American population that they’d rather continue to be on public assistance than work for a living.

      R Garrison
      ps…I fixed the one grammatical error I found…a lack of capitalization in one sentence.

  2. JACK TURNER says:

    How in the world can US Senator Tillis be serious about “Talking Agriculture, and then make reference to the H-2b program ?

    The H-2b program is for temporary non-agricultural employers.

    What makes me even more disbelieving is the whole issue of Wages. No question that workers may not appear at the wages currently offered. How about competing in the labor market just like most other employers. The whole issue of worker availability is a product of a faulty wage determination system as administered by the N.C. Employment Security system and USDOL.

    With the true unemployment rate near twenty percent, there is no justification for the importation of foreign workers, especially in seasonal agriculture. In any case, that would be administered under the USDOL H-2a program.

    At least in both agricultural and non-agricultural temporary labor, there is no need to reform anything. Just use the program as intended !

    • Mr. Turner, thanks for your reply to our story.

      The point that Mr. Tillis was trying to make was that the large issue of immigration reform needs to be handled in individual chunks, starting with the most urgent, which most would agree is a guest worker program, primarily for agriculture. If the larger issue of immigration reform is handled one issue at a time rather than as a whole, it’s more likely to see good, positive results. Eating the elephant one bite at a time, so to speak.

      As to giving those jobs to Americans, the truth is that Americans don’t want them. A few years back during an era of high unemployment, North Carolina Farm Bureau ran an ad campaign for agricultural jobs which were competitive in wages and plentiful. They only had a handful of responses, and of those few, only two or three actually took positions, and none lasted more than a week. Immigrants will take these jobs, work until the work is finished, then return to their home countries in most cases. And that’s what the majority want to do. There are exceptions as with livestock and dairy that are year-around, but for the most part, migrant workers spend the winters and early spring in their home countries, and return when its time.

      The program that’s in place now to achieve that is costly and cumbersome, and people on both ends want to achieve the same thing, legally, with less red tape.

      Rhonda Garrison
      Director, SFNToday and Southern Farm Network

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