Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Idaho Agribusiness Call for Immigration Reform From New GOP Majority

Posted By on Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 11:12 AM

Left to right: Brent Olmstead and Ivan Castillo - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Left to right: Brent Olmstead and Ivan Castillo
This isn't the first time that Brent Olmstead, president of Milk Producers of Idaho and executive director of the Idaho Business Coalition for Immigration Reform, and Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Ivan Castillo have called on Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform, but there's no denying that the most recent plea—a special section running in Nov. 19th's edition of the Washington Times and individual media events across the country—comes at a unique political moment.

Congressional Republicans retook the U.S. Senate during the Nov. 5 midterm elections; on the campaign trail, many of them indicated an interest in some kind of immigration reform.

"Republicans have control of the Senate. They need to live up to the promises they made in the election and fix [the U.S. immigration system]," Olmstead said.

But Congress may not have time to move on immigration reform on its own, and President Barack Obama has indicated that he will take executive action to provide temporary protections to millions of undocumented immigrants Thursday, Nov. 20. 

"Legislative action is always preferable, but we have waited for Congress to act and the Congress has not acted. The president has waited," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told the Washington Post.

Nevertheless, Olmstead and Castillo told reporters this morning at the Milk Producers of Idaho office in Boise that the people who have waited for immigration the longest are immigrants themselves, and that giving some kind of legal status to undocumented workers would be a boon for Idaho and the country as a whole. 

"When you give people the opportunity to come out of the shadows, you give people the opportunity to help this country," Castillo said. 

According to Olmstead, there are permits available for an additional 40,000 head of cattle across the state that aren't being used because of a labor shortage, and the dairy industry isn't the only sector of the economy that would benefit from a system that welcomes, rather than discourages, migrant labor. He suggested that reform might include a guest worker program, enhanced border security, work permits renewable in the United States through employers, English language learning and an increase in the number of visas available to highly educated or skilled immigrants, like those with specialized training of Ph.Ds. He cited a double standard within the current immigration system that privileges some applicants at the expense of others.

"There's a visa to bring a ballerina into this country, but there isn't a visa to work on agricultural supply," he said.

While immigration reform is a hot political topic with economic implications, the U.S. immigration system constitutes a human rights crisis. Castillo offered an anecdote about an acquaintance whom he encountered at WalMart shopping for his friends and family who were too frightened of immigration officials to appear in public. According to Castillo, that fear prevents even documented workers and citizens from fully participating in U.S. economic, political and social life.

"We all know someone who doesn't have papers," he said. "Political leaders need to know that Hispanics are here to stay."
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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Latino Youth Canvas Canyon County

Posted By on Sat, Jul 24, 2010 at 1:00 AM

With the fall elections quickly approaching, efforts to get more people to become registered voters are in full swing. And with immigration issues on the forefront of many voter’s minds, many Hispanic groups are determined to increase the number of Latino voters showing up at the polls. Today, Saturday, July 24, a group of local area non-profit organizations will gather 40 young Latinos to engage in canvassing efforts throughout Canyon County.

The voter registration efforts are part of a two-day "Vote Leadership Institute" organized by a newly-formed coalition called the Canyon County Latino Voter Collaborative. The collaborative, whose goal is to mobilize the Latino community, includes members from various non-profit organizations including the Idaho Community Action Network, Community Council of Idaho, Catholic Charities of Idaho, Mujeres Unidas de Idaho, Center for Community and Justice and the Idaho Hispanic Caucus.

"Those are the six different community based organizations that are coming together to share their resources and skills to ensure Latino community members are not only out and voting, but also participating in other ways, like advocacy," said Leo Morales, immigrant rights organizer at the Idaho Community Action Network.

Friday, youth between the ages of 14 and their mid-20s participated in workshops, skill building and training sessions that focus on how to encourage hard-to-reach voting groups in their communities to vote, as well as educate them on advocacy issues.

"It is specifically designed to enhance the skills of about 40 youth activists that will form, in a sense, a strong base to do a lot of the work that needs to be in the valley and across the state," Morales said.

Youth were selected for the program after submitting essays on civic engagement, immigration issues and their thoughts on the new Arizona immigration law.

"Some are concerned about what state of Arizona is doing and the message it is sending to the country," Morales said. "For many young Latinos, it is a slap in the face that profiling will continue to occur."

According to U.S. census data from 2008, Latinos comprise more than 10 percent of Idaho’s population and 21.5 percent of Canyon County's population. State Representative Raul Labrador, who is Idaho’s first Congressional Republican Latino candidate running against Walt Minnick, has garnered some mixed reviews from the Latino population for his stance on immigration and health care issues. Although Hispanics voted for Obama by a more than 2 to 1 margin over McCain in the 2008 election, a July 14 article published in USA Today pointed out that many current Hispanic candidates throughout the nation are running as Republicans.

Morales estimates they will reach 600 to 800 homes during Saturday's voter registration efforts. They hope to get 100 new voters registered by the end of the day.

The canvas starts at 9:30 a.m. at Endeavor Elementary School at 2850 East Victory Road in Nampa.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Posted By on Wed, Aug 27, 2008 at 6:36 PM

Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of LA, broke into Spanish  Wednesday morning, in an enthusiastic speech to the Democratic Party's Hispanic Caucus. His speech followed a talk by Michelle Obama which we tried but failed to record (mike in headphone jack).

Michelle Obama mostly repeated the themes of her big speech from Monday night (how cute Barrack is, etc., etc.) but she did spend some time talking about black-Hispanic solidarity and called for a path to legalization for 12 million undocumented immigrants. My notes are sketchy, because I thought I was recording it.

Villaraigosa called for Latinos to vote, keeping in mind the large number of Latino immigrants who are not able to vote. In other words, to vote Latino interest. A year ago, that could have meant supporting John McCain who was outspoken in support of a moderately progressive immigration reform. 

The immigration discussion has simmered down a bit, but should be a major issue in this election.

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