U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is calling on Congress to pass an immigration reform bill, asserting it would bring a variety of benefits to the ag industry and to rural states like Iowa. Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, spoke with reporters today in a conference call about the start of National Small Business Week.
“As we deal with comprehensive immigration reform, we look for the benefits of trying to fix a broken system,” Vilsack says. “One of the benefits is that immigrants come here with a dream and come here with a hope of a better life and one way that they can do that is by being their own boss and developing their own business, which is why immigrants are more likely than those who currently live here in the United States to start a small business.”
Just last week, a report from the U.S. Census Bureau found Iowa’s largest minority group — Hispanics — is gaining population quickly. New data shows nearly 163,000 Latinos lived in the state as of last July, an increase of better than three-percent in the previous year.
“Certainly in the agricultural area, we’ve had a number of examples of families coming in and starting a small fruit or vegetable production facility and having that expand over time to support multiple families,” Vilsack says. “This is in addition to the benefits that agriculture will receive from the comprehensive immigration reform bill with a stable and secure workforce, a guest worker system that works.”
The secretary says passage of the bill will help create jobs, in addition to more taxpayers who can help the country reduce deficits more quickly. The Census Bureau report found the growth rate for Hispanics in Iowa is ten times faster than the state’s overall population.