A better immigration system
The construction, hospitality, food, and agriculture industries are desperate for workers as our economy booms.
Many of these jobs were filled in the past or would have now been filled by Hispanic and other nationality immigrants, some undocumented. But under the Trump immigration policy, thousands are either being captured by border patrol, ICE or deterred into not making the journey at all because of fear of the policy.
The legal immigration system is not effective or adequate to bring enough workers into the country to satisfy the needs of these industries. An alternative system could allow those seeking work to enter the country legally, temporarily, but not on a path to citizenship.
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Those entering would be given a Social Security number preceded by an “N” indicating non-citizen. If they find work, they may stay in the country as long as they have work. They must be paid the same wage as an American citizen so as not to replace citizen workers. They would pay into the Social Security system, have taxes withheld from their paycheck and be protected by Workers’ Compensation. They would, however, not be eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Medicaid or other welfare programs.
A system such as this would alleviate the severe worker shortage in our country. It would also keep people safe from dangerous crossings and very importantly, to not be pressed into the drug trade by the coyotes who are paid to bring them into the U.S., thereby exacerbating our drug problem.
Editor’s note: The writer is a former state senator and Carrboro mayor.
Self-inflicted storm damage
Beyond the widely reported devastating impacts of Hurricane Florence on the Carolinas, there is one more — of the self-inflicted variety.
North Carolina is home to thousands of factory farms that raise millions of pigs, chickens, and other animals for our dinner table. Their feces are stored in huge open pits, labeled ironically as “lagoons.” The excess rainfall from Florence is very likely to spread much of this waste onto nearby housing developments, farmland, and waterways, including those supplying drinking water.
This is exactly what happened when Hurricane Floyd struck North Carolina as a Category 2 storm in 1999. According to the Associated Press, “The bloated carcasses of hundreds of thousands of animals bobbed in a nose-stinging soup of fecal matter, pesticides, fertilizer and gasoline so toxic that fish flopped helplessly on the surface to escape it.”
Although none of us has direct control over the weather, we each have direct control over our demand for animal food products: the very food products that cause so much damage to our environment and to our personal health. The advent of Florence presents a great opportunity for each of us to start reducing that demand.
An invisible storm
While public attention is rightly focused on the plight of our neighbors caught in Hurricane Florence and its aftermath, another invisible storm is looming that will impact thousands of North Carolinians and other Americans.
The U.S. House has passed a Farm Bill that cuts the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (Food Stamps) and makes it more difficult to obtain them. If this measure passes, beneficiaries would have to report their status — whether working, caring for small children, disabled or elderly — every month rather than twice yearly. Work mandates would be applied, even though a large number of recipients already work. Furthermore, there are not sufficient funds for effective job training.
The SNAP program is the second most effective program to keep people out of poverty, especially children. The cut would exclude 2.6 million people. The Senate version of this bill does not contain these punitive provisions, will not end benefits for millions, nor reduce funding.
The North Carolina Congressional delegation will soon have a chance to vote on the final Bill. We need to urge Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis and our Congresspeople, to vote for the Senate version of SNAP. North Carolinians do not need to suffer another storm.
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