The immigration crisis on our southern border is one of those hot-button political issues that evolved into a quagmire of good intentions and misguided policy decisions. Everyone from the president on down seems to know what they want out of immigration reform, but nothing seems to happen other than mass detentions of illegals and the spewing of political rhetoric. While this latest American political circus may be entertaining, the fact is there are lives on the line and decisions on the table that need to be made.
From the start a kind of bizarre duality haunted the border and immigration crisis. On one hand America must secure its borders, a concept we fully support, but on the other is the not-often-talked-about reality that the nation’s agriculture industry depends on a large swath of immigrant labor.
That’s why Umatilla County Commissioner George Murdock’s upcoming trip to the border as part of a National Association of Counties’ Immigration Reform Task Force mission is crucial.
Murdock is one of five vice chairs of the task force and the only Oregonian. About a dozen members of the task force are on their way to El Paso, Texas, Tuesday and to get an up-close view of the situation at the border. The association seems to be one of those rare nonpartisan groups trying to find a solution, which makes sense because there remains a major shortage of agriculture workers in the U.S.
Murdock said the organization is looking for practical solutions to the problem and we hope he and his fellow members of the task force can find a way forward in what is simply a mess with seemingly no end in sight.
Many rural counties — including Umatilla — rely on migrant, mostly Hispanic, workers for critical jobs. Local farmers need the labor, migrants need jobs. Against those two realities is the fact that our borders haven’t been secure for decades and the situation has only grown worse over time.
Everyone seemingly wants our borders secure, with no one in the nation illegally. At the same time, we consistently declare how valuable agriculture is to our future and the numbers — in terms of dollars — back that up.
Somewhere in between those two pressing issues must be room for a compromise. What it is, though, may be difficult to find. That’s because the border issue is by now so politicalized that it is hard — if you live in the heartland — to discern what is truth and what is not.
Hopefully, Murdock will be able to find some facts and we hope he returns and is able to cut through the politics and give a non-biased report on what is happening and what we can do about it.