Commissioner Staples Visits Washington to Speak About Border Security, Saving Jobs and Reducing Illegal Immigration (2/4/2013)

Following is a transcript of the Commissioner’s remarks:

“Today, our failed guest worker process is to be blamed for the deaths of 591 individuals, from 2006 to 2011, whose bodies were discovered in Texas counties along the border region.

“These individuals had a desire to better themselves, and in response to an under-populated U.S. labor market, literally risked life and limb to enter the United States. Nearly 600 died on their journey to what they hoped would be a better life.

“If our nation had a realistic and modern guest-worker program, these individuals would certainly have had the option to enter our country through our legal ports of entry.

“The current H-2B and other work-visa programs are so bad, so riddled, so antiquated, we need to not be implementing new rules and regulations to make it harder; we need to reform and streamline to make it better.

“Let’s be clear: Any American who wants a job should be first in line to receive that job, but the lines are not forming. A contractor in Houston told me two to three months ago he could hire 200 more workers today if the labor pool was available. I suggested some would say if he paid higher wages, he would attract the workers he desired. He rose out of his chair and said he is subject to the Davis Bacon Act; he must pay the prevailing wage in whatever market he operates!

“My father was a union member for an estimated 36 years. He was president of the Local 90, Glass Bottle Blowers of America, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO for about 22 years. I am proud that American workers, American labor, built this country, we just simply do not have the workforce in place today. Even China is rethinking their one-child policy, because of a shrinking labor force.

“If you want to save the American jobs we have, and expand them, I suggest you not burden the existing and capped H-2B program with more regulation and restriction; uncap it and streamline it. Send the message to job creators worldwide that America is open for business.

“In 1980, the U.S. imported 13 percent of its fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2010, we imported 34 percent. None of us like being dependent on foreign oil; let’s not become dependent on foreign food. This couldn’t happen you say, but in reality, production moves to where there is a stable, affordable and reliable labor force, and productive working conditions. Just look at the continued migration of domestic jobs to China and India. By making the H-2B more cumbersome and more costly, you do not help Americans; you simply deny them of a competitive future. 

“Yesterday, we watched athletes compete in the Super Bowl in a fair game on a football field, and celebrated the talent and competitive spirit. 

“I hope our Congress will celebrate the competitive spirit of American labor, and recognize we all get better, stronger, healthier and have access to upward mobility if we have a system that signals to American businesses that we have a robust and accessible labor force, and a system that encourages expansion of that talent.”