Other Views: Grocers support comprehensive immigration reform

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Peter Larkin & Brandon Scholz
Tuesday, July 2, 2013

For too many years, Congress has punted on addressing the issue of comprehensive immigration reform and with it the status of the now estimated 11 million undocumented immigrations living and working in the United States. Subsequently, businesses have been left to grapple with what has become a matrix of state and local immigration laws passed to fill the void at the federal level.

Independent grocers are economic engines employing nearly 1 million workers throughout the United States and supporting total sales of nearly $130 billion. In Wisconsin alone, independent grocers are responsible for more than 21,000 stable, quality jobs supporting sales that generate more than $3 billion annually. As grocers, we open ours doors each and every day to serve our local communities. More and more, our customers and our colleagues include people impacted in some way by the issue of immigration, either directly or indirectly. The time has come for our nation to address the immigration issue head on, and the grocery industry, led by the National Grocers Association, has taken the bold step of endorsing comprehensive immigration reform.

The NGA's position calls for comprehensive reform that preempts state and local laws and includes four major provisions: secure borders and respect for the rule of law; mandatory E-Verify at no cost to employers for new hires only with a strong safe harbor that protects employers acting in good faith; support for an expanded guest worker program that includes trades such as bakers, butchers, and cooks; and finally a path to legal status for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants so they can come out of the shadows while keeping families together.

We believe embracing comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the real challenges facing our nation today, while ensuring protections for employers acting in good faith, is a step in the right direction. Independent grocers are willing to be part of the solution as long as employers are provided with appropriate safe harbors to ensure their ability to comply without fear of criminal or civil reprisals. We know that we are asking our members to subject themselves to new administrative burdens through E-Verify, and we don't take that mandate lightly. We realize that as businesses, though, we need to do our part to make comprehensive reform possible in the least burdensome way possible.

While no bill is perfect, we applaud the senators who supported the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act. Their action to pass this important reform on a bipartisan vote is a tremendous step forward in the process. It's now time for House to do the right thing and pass comprehensive immigration reform that supports the principles supported by NGA's Board.

The immigration debate is one that we all have a stake in and should support Congress working in a bipartisan manner to pass a comprehensive bill that works for all. It's the right thing to do for our country and the right thing to do for Wisconsin.

Peter Larkin is president and chief executive officer of the National Grocers Association, and Brandon Scholz is president and CEO of the Wisconsin Grocers Association.

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