My wife and I, along with my brother, his wife and our parents, operate a 500-cow dairy and a 350-cow beef business near Floresville, south of San Antonio. We also have 4,500 acres under cultivation.
In addition to the six family members, we have eight full-time employees, and we sometimes hire part-time workers. The majority of our employees are from Mexico. They were able to obtain legal status many years ago, and they average more than 33 years of employment with us. Replacing them will be almost impossible.
Very few U.S. workers will apply for these farm jobs, although I work hard to recruit American workers. We pay well above the minimum wage. Americans are unwilling to do these strenuous and labor intensive jobs on the farm and dairy. I am forced to turn to foreign workers.
Congress must fix the broken immigration system and soon. After years of avoiding the issue, some Republicans in Congress now say they support reform — just not this year. That would be disastrous for my business.
Farmers and ranchers need the certainty of reliable labor. We fear inadvertently breaking the law by the simple act of hiring. Farmers and business owners are hesitant to invest — and that means less growth and fewer jobs, including fewer jobs for Americans.
The immigration reform being discussed in Washington would address this uncertainty. It starts with better border security and better immigration enforcement in the workplace. Congress needs to provide all employers with a reliable way to verify the legal status of new hires.