Leaders, Businesses in Washington, Oregon and Idaho Calling for Immigration Reform Now

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For Immediate Release, July 3, 2014

Leaders and organizations representing businesses and communities throughout Washington, Oregon and Idaho are powerfully combining their voices, calling on elected officials in the U.S. Congress to take action now on immigration reform.

While recognizing that passing immigration reform this year is challenging, they also understand the dire economic consequences that failing to do so will have on our communities, our businesses, our families and our country.

As we look forward to Independence Day on July 4, celebrating our identity as a nation built through immigration, they are joining to send this clear message to our congressional delegations: “Do it now. We cannot afford to wait any longer.”

“Comprehensive immigration reform is key to continued prosperity in Washington and the Puget Sound region,” said Maud Daudon, president and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. “We want to encourage the best and brightest workers from around the world to come help grow our economy and make sure our companies have the workforce they need to compete globally.”

Immigrants contributed to the prosperity of America from the beginning. Today they keep cities, small towns, and businesses flourishing. It’s time to bring families out of the shadows and create at clear pathway to citizenship for immigrants living and working in our communities.

“Immigration reform is a crucial step in helping to strengthen our economy and in revitalizing rural communities throughout the northwest” said Rich Stolz, executive director of OneAmerica, Washington state’s largest immigrant advocacy organization.

“Political objections and excuses simply ignore the best interests of our communities, and must be understood for what they are: barriers to our economic success,” said Stolz.

The broken U.S. immigration system is hindering our nation’s progress and jeopardizing our future. Small towns and rural communities are vital to America’s success – we hold dear the values they represent, especially the freedom to pursue dreams, work hard and to prosper.

Washington Growers League Executive Director Mike Gempler said immigration reform is a top priority of the Washington state fruit, vegetable, dairy, nursery and specialty crop industries.

“We are concerned about the needs of farm employers for a legal and stable workforce, and the development of a system that fully utilizes all willing and qualified people in our local American workforce, while also allowing foreign workers to fill in the gaps without being subjected to human smugglers, high risk and inhumane conditions,” Gempler said.

“We are also concerned about families being torn apart by outdated immigration laws that need to be changed. We need a federal solution that gives us a stable and legal workforce and makes our nation, our economy and our communities safer and stronger,” said Gempler.

In June, business and community leaders from small towns traveled to Washington, D.C. to add their voices to the call for immigration reform. Peter Tofalvi, an Oregon business owner and Main Street Alliance member was among them.

“Immigrants are critical to small farming communities,” said Tofalvi.“The taxes they pay help fund health care, education and other public services. While the economic contributions of immigrants are great, our broken immigration laws limit their full potential.

Here is a sample of what others have to say:

Mayor John Bechtel of Wilder, Idaho (population 1,533): “Past generations of immigrants built rural America, new generations are revitalizing it.”

Rev. Abner Vazquez of Sunnyside, in the Yakima Valley: “If we could allow these hard working, creative people to start their own businesses, it would have a huge positive impact on our economy – not just in our valley, but the whole region, our state, and the country.”

Irma Valdivia, small business owner in Nampa, Idaho. “Eight years ago, I took the biggest risk of my life – I started a small business – Jalapeños Mexican Restaurant. Following our success of in Nampa, we opened a second in Boise. We employ 50 people. Immigrants are more than twice as likely to start a business as U.S.-born citizens. I am a job maker, not a job taker.”

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OneAmerica advances the fundamental principles of democracy and justice at the local, state and national levels by building power in immigrant communities in collaboration with key allies.

Main Street Alliance gives small businesses a voice on the most pressing public policy issues across the nation. Our advocacy promotes vibrant businesses, healthy communities, and socially responsible business leaders.

The Washington Compact – Five principles to guide Washington state’s immigration discussion, draws inspiration from coalitions developed in other states. Signers aim to help Washington be a leader in this national debate.

Alliance for a Just Society is a national research, policy and organizing network.