WASHINGTON, D.C., June 30, 2014 – The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) is “deeply disappointed” after hearing President Obama relate that House Speaker John Boehner told him the House will not vote on immigration reform legislation this year.
“This inaction squanders the best opportunity we have had in a generation to fix a problem of critical importance to agriculture and bolster the economy across rural America,” Chuck Conner, NCFC’s president and CEO, said in a statement.
Speaking from the White House Rose Garden, Obama said Boehner told him last week that the House will continue to block a vote on an immigration bill passed by the Senate. He said he planned a “new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress.”
Conner said that won’t be enough to help the nation’s farmers.
“Any executive action that the President takes on immigration will not adequately solve agriculture’s problems in finding a legal, skilled and dependable workforce now or in the future,” Conner said, adding that Obama admitted as much in his remarks.
“Executive action will only freeze in place the current dysfunctional state of affairs,” he said. “Farmers will continue to be unable to find the workers they need to pick crops or care for livestock; more food production will go overseas; local economies across the country will suffer; and the American consumer will ultimately pay more for the food they eat.”
“What farmers, ranchers and growers need, and what the American people deserve, is for policy makers in Washington to do their jobs and act to solve the country’s broken immigration system,” Conner said.
Obama said Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder will recommend actions the administration can take “to do what Congress refuses to do and fix as much of our immigration system as we can."
"If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours," Obama said, adding that he expected the recommendations by the end of summer.
Boehner said that during his conversation with Obama last week he told the president what he’d been telling him for months: “The Amerian people and their elected officials don’t trust him to enforce the law as written” and “until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue.”
In a statement, Boehner referred to the recent surge of undocumented aliens, including thousands of children, crossing into the U.S. from Mexico.
“The crisis at our southern border reminds us all of the critical importance of fixing our broken immigration system,” Boehner said. “It is sad and disappointing that – faced with this challenge – President Obama won't work with us, but is instead intent on going it alone with executive orders that can't and won't fix these problems.” He added that it was the president’s own executive orders “that have led directly to this humanitarian crisis.”
Boehner said last week he is planning to sue Obama over his use of executive orders.
Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif said he learned of Obama’s conversation with Boehner last week in a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden, who also divulged the president’s plan to take administrative action to deal with the situation. But he said no industry representatives were asked what they would like to see accomplished, or whether they would support the president’s use of executive power to reform immigration law.
“This leads to the conclusion that…. those policies are being developed, at least so far, without meaningful input from industry representatives,” he said, adding that congressional action would be “far preferable,” said Nassif, whose group represents fruit and vegetable farmers in California and Arizona.
Nassif went on:
“The House leadership’s refusal thus far to allow a vote on an immigration bill puts all U.S. industries, especially agriculture, in a desperate situation. Clearly the majority of U.S. citizens, including Republicans, want to see the House pass immigration reform. Clearly the U.S. economy would benefit from immigration reform. There may never be another Republican president during my lifetime. Why, therefore, is the Speaker refusing to take up immigration reform?”
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