Immigration Reform Impacts Agriculture Industry - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Immigration Reform Impacts Agriculture Industry

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Immigration Reform is a hot topic in the U.S. Senate Chambers.
The bill impacts numerous employment industries including agriculture.
Currently,employees can only work for a short time before having to head back to their home countries.
Ag Reporter Sarah Gustin explains how reform could help change that.

It takes a lot of working hands to run a farm.
(Steve Heger / Farmer) "With the way farming is going, we are such a 12 month year farming operation now. We have so much more product to move now and machinery to get ready that there is definitely a need for year round."
Heger Farms have been employing workers through the H2A Visa program for nearly a decade.
A workforce they say they couldn't farm without.
(Steve Heger / Farmer) "They are invaluable. They are there everyday. They show up to work. They have good moral values and farming and hard work. Their work ethic is very respectable."
(Herman / Worker from South Africa)"There are different farm techniques you can learn here and a lot of experience I can get up here. Machinery is actually bigger than what we have back home."
Under the current system, workers like Herman can work here in America for 10 months.
Workers than have to return to their home country for three months before being eligible to come back to the states.
(Katie Heger / Farmer)"When you get into spring season or harvest season. The time for training is very limited. At that point It's kinda like, is this worth my investment for how long this individual can stay with us?"
(Sarah Gustin / sgustin@kxnet.com) "Along with providing transportation to and from the United States, Heger's are also required to provide housing for each employee's 10 month stay here in America."
(Katie Heger / Farmer) "I would like to know that the individual we are hiring, have some type of guarantee that they will be able to return to us. Whether, it's they go home to visit and come back or that they are able to stay and that they are not stuck back home waiting to wade their way through the red tape."
(Herman / Worker from South Africa) "It's a lot of hassle back home to get the visa. So you would stay if you had the chance? Absolutely."

Hegers says they are not opposed to hiring local help, but it's becoming very hard to find skilled labor while competing with the energy industry. 
Both, Heitkamp and Hoeven support increasing security at the U.S.-Mexico border, by doubling the number of border patrol agents at the border while also giving immigrants a 10 year pathway to citizenship.

 

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