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Nursery Industry Responds to Homeland Security No-Match Rule ProposalSalem-News.com
Homeland Security strikes out at Oregon agriculture businesses.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Today, the Oregon Association of Nurseries responded sharply to the Department of Homeland Security's revised no-match letter policy, declaring that the proposal unfairly burdens labor-intensive employers with more onerous regulation.
They also say it creates an environment of suspicion in the workplace. The response came shortly after a conference call with 70 individuals representing employer groups from across the United States.
"The policy is bad for employers and their workers," said Jeff Stone, OAN Director of Government Relations.
"And frankly, it's bad for Oregon. With such a large number of foreign-born workers contributing to the economy, the productivity in many sectors would be significantly reduced without them."
Today's conference call was held in response to yesterday's announcement by Homeland Security. It was led by ImmigrationWorksUSA, a federation of pro-immigration business coalitions from across America.
Participants at the local level hail from every sector of the economy that relies on immigrant workers: agriculture, food processing, landscaping, hotels, restaurants and construction.
The policy lays out requirements employers must follow if notified by the Social Security Administration that an employee's name and social security number on file do not match.
The no-match rule has been the subject of ongoing litigation between DHS and a coalition of employers and unions objecting to the rule. These groups are already saying DHS did very little to address flaws in the prior version.
"This move by DHS is less about revision and more about justification for their position," said Stone. "We expected them to do better. Employers believe in enforcement when it's done right."
"Most employers want to abide by the law and they want the government to give the tools to ascertain whether employees are legal or not," said Tamar Jacoby, head of ImmigrationWorksUSA.
"But the social security no-match system is a poor tool, and there is a lot of work to be done before it's ready for prime time."
Stone cited a December, 2007 report from the Office of the Inspector General at Social Security Administration (SSA) that more than 70 percent of the 18 million discrepancies in its database pertain to native-born citizens, not immigrants.
"Unfortunately, the DHS made no substantive repairs to the Final Rule as originally published," he said.
The national coalition was formed due to the lack of a national solution to immigration. As reform continues to languish, individual states are pursuing anti-worker policies that harm businesses and the economy.
"We support congressional action that's responsible economic policy," said Jacoby. "This is about more than immigration. It's a U.S. worker issue."
The Oregon nursery group represents the state's largest sector of agriculture with 1,600 member businesses and more than $1 billion in annual sales.
Nurseries are a key generator of revenue for Oregon, with more than 75 percent of its product exported outside the state. Wages are better than expected, with average industry wages for field workers in the Pacific region at $10.48 per hour, according to the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service (October, 2007). "The nursery industry depends on a willing, available workforce, and they support Oregon's economy," said Stone. "We're urging Congress to stop this mess and adopt federal reform that allows these valued employees a legal way to work."
Source: Oregon Association of Nurseries
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