|Immigration policy will impact N.C. economy|
|Outcome in Washington sets local tone|
|Published Wednesday, May 29, 2013 3:18 pm|
RALEIGH – As Congress continues to debate U.S. immigration policy reform, North Carolina businesses that count on immigrants to work for them have said they are proceeding as usual. In agriculture alone, the state exports almost $4 billion a year in crops such as cotton and tobacco.
Larry Wooten, who heads the North Carolina Farm Bureau, said not having a reliable labor force is what keeps farmers up at night.
"We need these immigrants, particularly in agriculture," Wooten said. "They help us plant our crops, harvest our crops. We just don't have enough workers here to do some of these agricultural jobs."
A recent meeting of business leaders from all industries, which was organized by the Center for International Understanding, concluded that the U.S. should increase the work visas available for both high-skill and low-skill jobs to match the number of employees needed. China is a major export partner for North Carolina, purchasing tobacco, pork and poultry products. The State Department of Agriculture has opened a foreign office in Beijing to link North Carolina producers with new customers in Asian markets.
Wooten said too much is at stake for Congress not to reform the system.
"We have a broken immigration system in this country. It needs to be fixed at the federal level," he said, "and that's why we're working so hard with our members of Congress."
If all undocumented immigrants were removed from North Carolina, the state would lose more than $14 billion in economic activity and more than 101,000 jobs, according to a report by the Perryman Group.
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