Faith, business and agricultural leaders gathered Tuesday morning at the Milk Producers of Idaho to urge Idaho's congressional delegation to press for immigration reform.
The conference, part of a Mountain West-wide series of such conferences simultaneously taking place in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, was the launch of a letter, written to congressional delegations from across the western United States, urging immigration reform which advocates say will boost agricultural and industrial production, and help relieve a humanitarian crisis.
"It's time for Congress to stop inaction," said Milk Producers of Idaho President Brent Olmstead. He and other Idaho business leaders have long pushed for immigration reform, citing a national emphasis on border security over creating a guest worker program as contributing to unfilled ag jobs and decreased ag production.
Olmstead said he has pushed Idaho's congressional delegates to be more assertive on the issue.
"'Now's not the time.' Well, when is the time?" he said.
Others said they were drawn to the issue for humanitarian reasons. For World Relief Boise Field Office Director Larry Jones, offering contemporary migrants access to jobs in America is analogous to America's ultimate acceptance of German and Irish immigrants in the 19th century, and waves of immigration from Central and Eastern Europe in the 20th.
"We cannot survive without them economically and we cannot survive morally without them," he said.
Dave Cahoon of El Centro, a Nampa-based financial services business that tailors services to the Hispanic population, said he's unable to offer auto or home insurance to undocumented workers in his service area—coverage undocumented workers want but cannot have because they don't have Social Security numbers.
"I see these people as equals," he said. "We see the struggles, we see the stories."