That is a critical fact in today’s struggling economy because the creation of new small businesses, with some growing into very large businesses, has been the driving force in new job creation in our country for the past 30 years.
In fact, according to a study by the Partnership for a New American Economy, 40 percent of America’s largest Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. This includes Tennessee’s own International Paper, a company that now employs 60,000 people worldwide and generates $26 billion in annual revenues.
Immigrants are also critically important to our agricultural industry. According to the American Farm Bureau, labor shortages in agriculture cost the American economy between $5 and $9 billion annually — as our farmers here and in other states cannot find the help they need here at home.
Yet, by using temporary workers from other countries, they can create an additional two to three jobs for American-born workers in several related sectors of our economy, including packaging, shipping and farming supplies.
The Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation recognizes that the current debate surrounding immigration reform can be a complex and emotional issue. But the bottom line is at a time when Tennessee, and the country as a whole, is struggling to get our economy moving again and unemployment down, we cannot afford to stumble on immigration reform again.
We must have a stable, legal workforce to ensure farmers have the ability and resources needed to continue producing an abundant, safe and affordable food supply.
If we fail to act, foreign producers will take advantage of our labor shortage to gain market share, and America will export not only our food production, but also thousands of farm-dependent jobs.
A more streamlined and efficient temporary worker visa that is market driven, adjusting the flow of immigrant workers according to the labor needs of America’s agricultural producers while preserving our state’s experienced farm workforce, is one way to get our economy moving and ensure an adequate supply of farm labor both now and in the future.
While we absolutely support stronger border security, we should not hold common-sense immigration reform proposals hostage to unrealistic proposals that stop any and all reforms from getting done.
It is vital for the House to move legislation forward so that Congress can enact meaningful immigration reform this year.
We hope all of Tennessee’s congressmen will work with interested parties to find ways to pass meaningful immigration reform.
Tennessee and America need the talented workforce, farm laborers and entrepreneurs of the world to help grow our economy and to create the businesses and jobs we need for the future.
(Editor’s Note: This guest “Viewpoint” has been submitted to the Cleveland Daily Banner by Lacy Upchurch, president of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.)