Immigration Debate Rages in Vermont

The Vermont Farm Bureau has denounced a federal immigration policy that could threaten the farm industry. The law in question, the Secure Communities initiative, requires local and state law enforcement to send accused criminal’s fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of investigation, where they would be used to determine residency and immigration status.

Vermont farm officials have criticized this initiative, claiming that it will hurt the agricultural industry. The president of the Vermont Farm Bureau stated that, “It’s not going to do us any good. It can only do us potential harm.” Vermont, like many states, relies on immigrant labor, often illegal immigrant labor. Immigrant labor is a staple of the over $500 million Vermont dairy industry.

Supporters of the measure claim that it will help reduce crime. They also state that it is not directed at all immigrants, just those who run afoul of the law.

The struggle in Vermont highlights a larger national concern. Immigration reform has been linked to agricultural policy for decades. Policies that effect one almost inevitably shape the other. In Georgia and Alabama, for example, tough new immigration policies have hurt the agricultural sectors there, which report critical labor shortages.

Farm officials have united with politicians like Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to push for comprehensive immigration reform that can guarantee the agricultural sector the labor that it needs to function.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer