SECRETARY OF COMMERCE CARLOS M. GUTIERREZ REMARKS AT STATE OF IMMIGRATION PRESS CONFERENCE, WASHINGTON, D.C.
States News Service
June 9, 2008
The following information was released by the U.S. Department of Commerce:
Last August, Secretary Chertoff and I announced a package of administrative reforms that sharpen existing tools to protect our citizens and make our immigration system more workable.
We have made great strides in securing our borders and enforcing existing immigration laws. But we cannot neglect our economic security. At a time when we are facing tough economic challenges-our actions must boost our economy-not hamper it.
The reality is that we simply do not have enough workers at both ends of the spectrum-from low skilled field laborers to high skilled tech workers.
For example, for the fifth straight year, our H-1B cap was filled at or before the start of the fiscal year. This year, the cap was reached in one week.
That's why, as Secretary Chertoff mentioned, we are proposing administrative reforms to our high-skill programs and to the H-2B non-agriculture temporary worker program.
In addition, we have proposed changes to the H-2A agricultural seasonal worker program. The changes will make the H-2A system more efficient and ensure an orderly and timely flow of legal foreign workers.
They will also protect the rights of all agricultural workers-American and foreign. Make no mistake, we need both. We don't have enough domestic workers to keep America fed.
The New York Times ran an article with the headline "Shortage of Labor to Cut Food Supply: Farmers, handicapped by lack of help, reduce their crop acreage."
Nearly a century later we face similar challenges-but this time, rather than reduce consumption, we'll have to turn to foreign producers-or move our farms overseas-to feed our families.
In fact, it is already happening-a survey by the U.S. farm group Western Growers indicated American companies now farm more than 45,000 acres of land in Mexico employing 11,000 people.
At a time when we are looking to further secure our food supply and tighten our import safety-we should not encourage the outsourcing of American agriculture.
We know there are employers who have not been able to fill many jobs with American workers. We simply can't ignore the problem and hope this issue will go away.
A comprehensive solution remains the best and most long-term option-without it we're getting a piecemeal approach to a national issue. For example:
This patchwork of laws is untenable in the long-term. But until Congress acts, we will take steps for our nation's security and our economic stability.
We will continue to look at ways to improve existing programs and address all aspects of immigration. Other major economies have realized the need for immigration policy to help them grow their economies.
Our country has a long history of making immigration work. We have more experience than any other nation, and it has been to our great advantage. We can make immigration an advantage that will last for a century
This issue is not going away. Regardless of who is president, and regardless of which party is in power, immigration will remain both a tough challenge, and a great opportunity for our nation. Thank you. Now, we are happy to take your questions.
from Lexus-Nexis Academic