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Small businesses concerned about immigration reform

Florida dairy farmer Joe Wright is a staunch republican, so one would believe that he would be the last person to endorse comprehensive immigration reform efforts.

Maybe not.

Wright owns a milk farm, and admits that he would not be able to operate the farm without Hispanic migrant workers. In fact, he explained to the Orlando Sentinel that immigration reform is "an issue where the conservative republicans are just plain wrong." He even hinted on leaving the Republican Party if it does not work towards reform this year.

Farmers like Wright are a growing chorus of voices who are calling for lawmakers to reach an agreement on reform so that the workers they depend on may continue to contribute to their enterprises. While this may seem similar to the wishes of the high-tech industry (who would like fewer restrictions on granting H-1 visas), it does. The only difference is that farmers have undesirable jobs that pay much less than software designers or engineers.

However, there is still a divide on whether undocumented workers and guest workers (who work on farms during harvesting seasons) should be granted a path to citizenship. Opponents of a citizenship path fear that migrant workers may leave such low-paying jobs if they are able to quickly obtain citizenship.

Nevertheless, small business owners believe that by joining together, they have much more of a convincing story than high-level policy makers because they have real-life experiences that voters (and in turn, legislators) can relate to, their business experience is relevant to how an economy works. Simply put, they know first hand how the loss of migrant workers will affect a local economy.

Source: TwinCities.com, Businesses emerge as force in immigration debate, March 2, 2013

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