It is hard to deny that the immigration system in America is broken. For Arizona specifically, the current federal immigration laws place an undue burden on our local business owners. Small business owners are the backbone of Arizona's economy and until we have more modern immigration policies, our small business will continue to suffer.
Business owners in the agriculture sector need a functioning and workable seasonal visa program to legally obtain the workers needed to complete the vast amount of work at hand in Arizona's fields and ranches. It is unacceptable for farmers to be forced to leave crops in the field simply because they cannot hire enough workers to finish the harvest.
Washington needs to fix this rigid and outdated system once and for all. Legal immigration is imperative for Yuma's farmers and ranchers. Without the immigrant labor pool, these stalwarts of our economy are forced to lose a great deal of money each year on unharvested crops and poorly cared for livestock. These businesses go to great lengths to hire legal workers, pay the proper taxes, and of course, harvest every crop from their field, but until we reform our immigration system, we are preventing them from doing so.
Unfortunately, agriculture is not the only industry that is negatively affected by our outdated immigration system. Arizona's economy relies heavily on hospitality and tourism, however it is becoming increasingly difficult for resorts and restaurants to operate at full capacity. Simply put, there are not enough seasonal workers available to fill the many job openings during the busiest tourist seasons.
Without the appropriate number of seasonal work visas, it is incredibly difficult for Arizona business owners to hire the amount of workers needed to make it through each season. And, it can be very difficult to find workers to remain throughout the entire season. With the fluctuation of school schedules and as new and better job opportunities present themselves, laborers quickly come and go and become less reliable.
Many of Arizona's businesses are small- to medium-sized family owned operations. They cannot afford to have their restaurant at half capacity, or empty rooms in their hotel, or leave a single crop unharvested. These business owners need a more reliable seasonal work visa program so they will have the comfort of knowing that as their work demands grow and shrink, they have the power to control their own employment needs.
Arizona is fortunate to have two Senators who understand the need for immigration reform. Both Senator McCain and Senator Flake have been champions of the immigrant reform efforts and should be applauded for their work thus far. But, we all know that the job is not complete until Congress has finally passed the legislation needed to fix our system. Until that happens, I want to encourage Senators McCain and Flake to continue their leadership roles and keep up the fight for reform. It is through their courage and efforts that Arizona's business owners will finally have the relief needed to keep their businesses thriving.
Jonathan Lines is the chairman of the Yuma County GOP and a Yuma businessman.