Making good business from immigration

It’s an all-too-infrequent instance when the interests of conservatives and liberals align. Earlier this week just such an oddity occurred when a group of conservative business lobbyists from Arkansas went to Washington, D.C., to promote immigration reform.

Perhaps the most interesting dimension of the visit was its purpose: support of pro-immigration policy reforms.

The group included representatives from the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas Farm Bureau and Rep. Mark Lowery, a Republican legislator from Maumelle. As reported by the Stephens Media’s Washington News Bureau, this “fly-in,” which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce helped organize, came as some House Republicans have resisted taking up any immigration reforms this year fearing that doing so could open the door to the sweeping measure the Senate approved in June.

“We are here to advocate for immigration reform — that they (members) express to House leadership that the issue should be brought to the floor for debate,” said Andrew Parker, governmental affairs director for the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce-Associated Industries of Arkansas.

Arkansas Farm Bureau lobbyist Jeffery Hall said immigration reform should not be delayed. Arkansas farmers, he said, need a guest worker program that will allow them to fill the jobs they have in both eastern and western Arkansas.

This sentiment was echoed by Joe Carter, chief executive officer of Snyder Environmental in Little Rock: “It’s really an issue of simple math. In order for the United States to grow, our population has to grow, the number of willing workers has to grow and the number of consumers within the U.S. border has to grow.”

Of course there are those here in Arkansas who refuse to cede the utility of this approach. Of them Republican Sen. John Boozman is typical. Boozman voted against recent immigration reform citing concerns over border security.

Boozman and his ilk don’t seem to recognize that these are separable issues. Not only are they separable, they speak to fundamentally different social and economic dynamics. Even so, the thinly-veiled anti-Mexican bias peeks through quite visibly.

The folks who journeyed to Washington get it. They get it in the same way farmers in Alabama got it a couple years ago when that state’s newly-enacted draconian immigration laws meant crops left unpicked — and jobs they just couldn’t give away. Ditto for Oklahoma. (See: Cut off nose to spite face.)

Back in June we commented on a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. In passing the “anti-immigration” bill sponsored by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), the House voted to defund presidential orders that allow immigration enforcement officials to focus deportation efforts on illegal immigrants who have been convicted of crimes. Six Republicans opposed the measure, while only three Democrats supported it.

King told reporters that the policies promoted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton grant administrative amnesty to illegal aliens. He went on to admit that the bill was largely an attempt to thwart President Obama. “If this position holds, no amnesty will reach the President’s desk,” he said.

With nauseating predictability, all of Arkansas’ Congressional representatives voted in support of King’s bill. Rep. Tim Griffin parroted King’s slap at Obama: “Changes in the law should come from Congress, not by the stroke of the executive’s pen.”

As we observed in June, Griffin apparently doesn’t remember the Bush years.

The sojourn this week is a strong indicator that some in the conservative community understand that we can ill-afford xenophobia and anti-immigrant policies. We are, after all, a nation of immigrants.