President Obama's executive actions on immigration may alleviate some pressure in the short-term for some agricultural workers, but long-term assurance is needed for employers, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives CEO Chuck Conner said Thursday.
Obama's three immigration actions include improved resources for border control, streamlined naturalization processes for highly skilled immigrants and steps to "deal responsibly" with undocumented immigrants currently inside U.S. borders.
The actions come as Congress continues to grapple with options for fixing the immigration system, which encompasses a pathway to citizenship and border control policies.
While Obama said the main goal is passing a bipartisan bill, he blamed Republicans for the bill's stall-out in the House last year.
"Now, I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President … that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just," he said, just before announcing his three key actions.
"I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary," he later explained.
The President's message, however, offered little mention of the H-2A program, which Conner said remains "broken beyond repair." He suggested the President's plan will not suffice for legislative reform.
"A new, streamlined and market-based visa program is needed," Connor said, "Certainty for current workers and a working visa program for the future can only be achieved through congressional action."
Connor noted, however, that bipartisan solutions won't come easy.
When the immigration debate is over, he said, "America's farmers still face an unprecedented labor crisis. We hope that the start of the 114th Congress gives policy makers the chance to turn the page on this issue and we urge all of them—Republican and Democrat, Congress and the Administration—to find a way to come together and work collaboratively to address agricultural immigration reform."