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Upstate reps say immigration reform must consider agriculture industry

Zach Hirsch
NCPR (file photo)
Rep. Elise Stefanik

Congressional leaders are once again considering immigration reform, and some upstate representatives want to make sure they take farmers into consideration.

President Donald Trump and Democratic lawmakers have alluded to a potential deal that would boost border security and provide a path to legalization for the 800,000 immigrants under the DACA program who were brought to the country as children. North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) says those conversations should include migrant farm labor.

“That means making sure our ag workers in the North Country are protected and we have visa programs that actually reflect what our needs are for seasonal ag workers for apples, for year-round workers for dairy farms,” Stefanik said. “That’s something that has been a top priority from farmers in this district.”

Finger Lakes Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) says those foreign workers are critical to many upstate farms. That's why he says creating a functioning border is imperative.

“A border that allows for the screening of that migrant workforce to be taken care of and documented and it works with the technology that is out there to allow us to have access to that labor supply and at the same time, protect the national security interests of our fellow citizens," Reed said. 

Reed met with the U.S. labor secretary last week to discuss foreign labor in the agriculture industry.

Both Reed and Stefanik emphasized the need for any immigration legislation to include border security measures. But Reed said there is recognition that the DACA problem needs to be resolved in a way that shows compassion, noting his support for a bill that could provide a path for legalization.

Stefanik demurred, saying she would need to see the specific plan.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.