Immigration reform and its anticipated effect on the local agricultural work force was among the many topics discussed during a Times/Review editorial board meeting with Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) Monday morning.
“Currently the [immigration] system, from almost every vantage point, is broken on Eastern Long Island,” Mr. Bishop said. “It has to do with access to a work force that our economy demands.”
About 60 percent of local farm workers are undocumented, Mr. Bishop said. Nationally, the number is 75 percent.
The congressman said he supports a comprehensive immigration reform bill pending on Capitol Hill.
“It would fix the visa system for farm workers,” he said. “The workers would basically have the status they need to come here and work.”
But the prospects for Congress passing such sweeping legislation are uncertain at best, the congressman added.
“It is the right thing to do and the Senate has worked very hard at it,” Mr. Bishop said. On the other hand, he said chances that a bill will make it through the House of Representatives “grow dimmer every day.”
If the bill dies in the Senate, the congressman said he would support a piece-by-piece approach to solve individual concerns, such as the workforce problems the agricultural market faces.
Other topics of discussion included increased boarder protection (the interview occurred before news broke that the Senate had approved such a bill), the recently defeated farm bill, and the Common Core program designed to set minimum education standards across the country. The Common Core effort is aimed at ensuring that high school graduates are fully prepared either to continue their education in college or find employment.
While saying the implementation of the Common Core standards has been “chaotic,” he praised states for coming together to press the issue.
“I think it’s admirable and it shows real leadership on the part of the governors,” Mr. Bishop said.
It’s less of an issue in New York, which has high education standards, he added, but in some states “it’s a sea change.”