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President-elect Trump’s immigration stance softensPresident-elect Trump’s immigration stance softens

Ag industry promised a seat at the table and hope they can come out with a win that recognizes challenges of industry.

Jacqui Fatka

November 18, 2016

4 Min Read

One of president-elect Donald Trump’s pillar campaign promises was that he would build a wall and deport millions of undocumented immigrants. In the days after his election, he’s already taken a more programmatic approach to the nation’s immigration woes.

When meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Trump said they agreed that immigration was an area where they could quickly work together. Ryan confirmed that securing the border between the U.S. and Mexico will be the first priority.


“We are not planning on erecting a deportation force,” Ryan said. “Donald Trump is not planning on that. That’s not what we’re focused on. We’re focused on securing the border. We think that’s first and foremost before we get into any other immigration issue. We’ve got to know who’s coming and going in the country."

Trump did note in his interview on 60 Minutes Sunday that he is looking to deport the “people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers” either out of the country or incarcerate them. He estimated there are 2 million of those individuals. “We’re getting them out of our country; they’re here illegally.”

After the border is secure, Trump indicated that he is going to make a determination on the “terrific people” who are already living and working in our country.   

In talking points agreed upon by Trump’s Agricultural Advisory Committee, it said “Trump recognizes the unique labor challenges facing the American farm community and will include farmers and ranchers in the process of determining the best possible immigration policies.”

Friday's announcement that Sen. Jeff Sessions will be Trump's atttorney general, who was strongly opposed to the Senate's comprehensive immigration bill, could create another strong hardliner for strict immigration policies. Several sources are reporting on the impact he could have on the immigration discussion in his new role as Attorney General.

Jeff Burton, president of Burton Strategy Group and former political strategist for the House Republican leadership, said Trump's threat on deportation force mostly will be “much ado about nothing.” Trump’s not going to be able to deport 10-11 million people, Burton explained, and President Barack Obama has already deported 2.5 million immigrants over the last few years.

Burton said with Republicans controlling the House, Senate and the White House, their first priority will be securing the border and deporting criminals. After that, they’ll deal with guest worker and visa issues.

He said there’s “nothing, from a practical and policy standpoint, (that those in the dairy industry) need to be worrying about right now.”

Kristi Boswell, director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation, said an enforcement-only policy poses certain concerns for the agriculture industry. The Farm Bureau has conducted studies that found that an enforcement-only approach would cause agricultural production to fall and food prices to rise. "Farm Bureau has been working to educate members and the new administration during the campaign that an enforcement approach needs to understand the economic needs of agriculture and not be done on the backs of farmers,” Boswell said.

“Comprehensive” immigration policy became a bit of a bad word on Capitol Hill when Republicans rejected such an approach approved by the Senate several years ago. Boswell said the House is more likely to take a “piece-by-piece” approach, and as long as it recognizes the guest worker future flow problem, the Farm Bureau will be supportive of whatever vehicle allows that to move forward.

Jon Baselice, director of immigration policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said he sees Trump as a “deal maker.” If he’s going to get anything done, he’s going to have to make some deals.

“If the ask is big, the give is big,” Baselice said. There may be opportunities to get targeted victories. “Ag has its place in the mix here.”

Talking points agreed upon by Trump’s Agricultural Advisory Committee noted that “Trump recognizes the unique labor challenges facing the American farm community and will include farmers and ranchers in the process of determining the best possible immigration policies.”

Alex Nowrasteh, immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, pointed out that many immigration efforts have failed, so it is time for new ideas. Cato is laying the groundwork by helping generate some information on how a proposal for a state-sponsored visa program might work. The concept is backed by ADC, and although no one on Capitol Hill has taken it up yet, many are waiting on the sidelines.

Nowrasteh explained how Congress could create a new nonimmigrant visa category — alongside the current visa programs — to allow states to sponsor foreign workers, investors, and entrepreneurs to live and work in their states. States would be able to use visas to sponsor immigrants using any criteria that suited their states — highly or less-skilled workers, investors or entrepreneurs — so long as they met the basic federal health and criminal requirements for admission.

Immigrants are eligible to renew their status — which expires after three years — only if they comply with the rules, work only in the state sponsoring them and have the state re-sponsor them for the visa.

He explained that the current system gives no reason for government agencies to enforce the law. By increasing the allowable number of visas in a state, it provides a positive incentive to follow the rules.

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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