Idaho ag leaders: Immigrants are economic backbone

Deporting immigrants could devastate Idaho, as the state's economy depends on hundreds of millions of dollars generated by migrant workers every year, the Idaho Farm Bureau said recently.

“Idaho’s economic vitality rides on the shoulders of the immigrant work force, many working in agriculture, that pay taxes,” Bob Nierebout, a member of the Idaho Dairymen's Association, said. "Immigrants in Idaho pay more than $460 million in taxes every year. They have more than $1.5 billion in spending power, and they’ve started 4,000 businesses in Idaho.”

The state's dairy sector -- which accounts for a third of all agribusiness in Idaho -- employs more than 8,000 immigrants, the bureau said.

“It costs between $11,000 and $22,000 to deport a single illegal worker,” Nierebout said. "If there's 12 million illegals, we’re looking at $150 billion to deport workers in this country. It’s fiscally irresponsible, yet its one of President Trump's campaign promises.”

A year-round guest-worker visa program could be the solution, according to Braden Jensen of the Idaho Farm Bureau.

"Operations like dairies require year-round labor and do not qualify for seasonal guest-worker programs, and of all the ag sectors, they’re hurting the worse,” Jensen said. “They need year-round visas right now just to stay in business.”

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Idaho Farm Bureau

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