Local & Regional News
4:00 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

Arkansas Business, Farm & Faith Leaders Call For Immigration Reform

Leaders from Arkansas’s business, agriculture and faith communities are responding to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s proposal for an incremental approach to immigration reform with renewed calls to pass some meaningful legislation. Representatives from the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce and the Arkansas Farm Bureau spoke in a conference call with reporters

In a conference call with reporters, representatives from the Arkansas Farm Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce spoke of the need for better managed employee verification systems and new work visa rules. They say that would allow both highly-skilled and seasonal laborers to better fulfill the demand for workers in various industries.

"You know it’s almost laughable that we don’t have a verification system that’s streamlined to protect the employers who follow the protocols,” said Beau Bishop of the Arkansas Farm Bureau. “So often today you hear about an employer being presented with the proper paper work and the system doesn’t catch the fact that they’re dealing with someone who’s in this country illegally.”

Bishop says specialty crops and dairy farms in the state are in particular need of migrant labor.

Steve Copley of Interfaith Arkansas said measures like the Dream Act, should be a priority among the slate of proposals.

“We’re excited to see one proposal...to reach out to these young folks who came here—no issue or fault of their own—[and] now have graduated from high school now, either want to serve our country in the military or go to college and try to live the American Dream,” said Copley.

Copley said over the next 20 years, there’ll be an estimate 11,000 ‘Dreamers’ in Arkansas. Dreamers are generally regarded to be undocumented residents who arrived in the country before the age of 16.