Saturday, October 20, 2007
A Call for Comprehensive' Immigration Reform. it is challenging, he said, to find U.S.-born citizens willing to work in entry-level positions .
It will take a unified, comprehensive effort between local, state and federal governments to establish lasting reform to immigration policies, Tom Baldrige says.
Baldrige, president of The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce &Industry, was one of several business leaders scheduled to testify late this morning at a hearing on immigration before the state House Republican Policy Committee inside Lancaster City Council Chambers.
In addition to business leaders, three immigration experts were scheduled to testify.
The speakers all agree that immigration policies need to be reformed. But they offered lawmakers various views on solving the problem and on who is responsible for doing so.
The committee's chairman, Rep. Mike Turzai of Allegheny County, and its co-chairman, Rep. Tom Creighton of Rapho Township, led the panel.
Baldrige said in prepared remarks:
"We recognize the need for new immigration laws, but they must be fair, balanced, and comprehensive - and we stress the word, comprehensive.' "
Lawmakers must also keep in mind the contributions of those workers who came here legally, Baldrige said.
Lancaster's chamber represents nearly 3,000 businesses, and many employ immigrant workers.
Tom Shotzbarger, general manager of Tomlinson Bomberger, a lawn care, landscape and pest control business, said prior to the hearing that there is a critical need for people willing to fill entry-level positions in his industry.
And the documented immigrants who have worked for his company "fill a critical void," he said. It is challenging, he said, to find U.S.-born citizens willing to work in entry-level positions for low wages.
Baldrige also said that deporting every single undocumented worker in the United States is unrealistic and "would be the equivalent of removing nearly the entire Commonwealth."
Many migrant workers labor in the fields. Agriculture accounts for $4 billion of the state's economy.
"What would happen if this labor pool suddenly vanished?" Baldrige asked.
Taking a hard line, Jack Martin, special projects director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform in Washington, D.C., said in prepared remarks that illegal immigrants are breaking the law.
He also called for state action.
If the federal government was doing its job, then there would be no need for the state to intervene, he said.
When someone enters illegally or refuses to leave at the end of an authorized stay, it undermines the sovereignty of the nation, he said.
Also, he said that the numbers of the illegal alien population in Commonwealth are rising. The increase has placed a heavy burden on taxpayers who must pay for the illegal alien's children to be educated and emergency medical expenses for those who do not have insurance, he said.
Kathleen Appell, media coordinator for the Citizens of PA for Immigration Control Enforcement, said before the hearing she planned to provide documentation that the state was under an "invasion" of illegal immigration.
She said also a large amount of money was going to special- interest groups that promote illegal immigration.
The latter has led to the "degradation of the companies" that hire illegal, she said.
The big companies are profiting and violating laws. She blames the companies, and she blames the people who came here illegally.
"No one forced them to come," she said.
The third speaker on immigration was Mariann Davies, vice-chair and charter member of You Don't Speak For Me, a national organization of Hispanic citizens against illegal immigration.
Her organization is in favor of "sensible reform." Also, she said, "ethnocentric groups have hijacked this issue."