Rural America and Immigration Reform

America needs to fix its broken immigration policy. Immigration reform is vital to rural America. It should create opportunities for undocumented immigrants who fulfill their citizenship requirements to remain in the U.S. as citizens, while setting higher, more realistic limits for legal immigration.

The door to legal immigration used by earlier generations is today largely closed for all but the wealthy. Only 10,000 manually skilled workers are admitted into the U.S. annually, about one for every 100 immigrants who enter without a visa and find work. More appropriate and reasonable limits should be established by an independent commission, free of partisan rancor. And America must more effectively enforce existing wage and labor laws and the prohibition on hiring undocumented immigrants and falsely classifying them as independent contractors.

The economic contribution made to Nebraska by new Americans is significant. A University of Nebraska Omaha study found immigrant spending in Nebraska resulted in $1.6 billion of production to our economy, generating approximately 12,448 jobs.

The Center for Rural Affairs supports efforts to fully engage immigrants in rural communities. And we walk the walk. Our Hispanic Business Center provides lending, training, business planning and technical assistance to rural, Latino owned businesses. And we’ve worked across Nebraska to help Latino farmers and ranchers overcome barriers they face in starting up farms and ranches and in accessing USDA credit, conservation and farm programs. These approaches bring people together and build community - things we work for every day.