Immigrate farm worker helping in dairy barn.
LABOR NEEDED: President Donald Trump’s proposed change to immigration law gets it backward. We need more, not fewer, visas, and we need entry-level labor as much, if not more, than highly skilled workers.

Proposed change to immigration law would make things worse

Economy needs more, not fewer, visas; entry-level workers are needed as much, if not more, than the highly skilled.

So, we have a new move to change immigration law. Only instead of making it better, we are working on making it a lot, lot worse.

This week, the Trump White House unrolled a new proposal to reform immigration law by cutting visas in half and requiring that those applying for green cards speak English and possess valuable skills in demand in the American workforce.

On the surface, it is easy to think, “Yeah, it will save money and time and effort to require that they speak English before arriving.” Think a little harder.

Even if you ignore the very real need for workers in entry-level, manual labor jobs and concentrate on the need to import people who have an immediate contribution to the workforce, this proposal is incredibly anti-family and cruel.

Both the Hispanic and Asian cultures are family-oriented and revere male heads of household — a value that is strongly supported by the Trump administration and his supporters across the country. Somehow, they are perfectly comfortable with suggesting that the male-hero breadwinner should abandon his family for opportunity and leave them in limbo for decades or forever without a chance to join him in a better world because … they don’t speak English. Maybe this needs a little more thought.

In western Kansas, immigrants have been the saviors of school districts in places like Rexford, Bird City and Scott City as commercial dairies moved in and brought with them an influx of workers and their families.

In Garden City, Dodge City and Liberal, the workers in packing plants toiled away, sending their wages home by Western Union, until finally time passed and their families could join them and open beauty shops, nail salons, restaurants, art galleries and other businesses.

Their children have opened car dealerships and insurance agencies and other businesses that offer bilingual services to serve the new and growing population, and the local economy prospers.

Now, let’s think about those second-generation kids who arrived not speaking English, but who, under Trump’s rules, would not even be here. All of them now speak English, but many of them separate themselves from their heritage just like their British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Scottish, Irish, German, Russian Mennonite, Ukrainian, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, whatever else ancestors did generations after arriving here.

The real message for years has been that when you arrive in America and become American, you give up past loyalties and pledge yourself to a new loyalty. Most of us never totally give up our ethnic identity. Just look at the popularity of things like Ancestry and 23 and Me for people to learn what their DNA says about them. But no matter the heritage, we are all American. Being American is unique and wonderful, and we should embrace it.

The current proposed change to our laws has it exactly backward. We need more, not fewer, legal visas, and we need to enable the people who want to harvest our vegetables and tend our feedlots and process our beef and chicken just as much, maybe more, than we need computer programmers and college professors.

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