Article : Landscapers Lobby Senate on Immigration

Landscapers Lobby Senate on Immigration

Landscaping business owner David Penry shot this pro-immigrant-labor ad in Santa Rosa on March 29. It aired in Washington D.C. on multiple channels on April 1.

Landscaping business owners are crossing the country to lobby lawmakers, shoot TV ads and speak to journalists about the industry’s huge stake in the immigration debate. Businesses will be crippled if enforcement is beefed up without an accompanying guest-worker program, the group of leaders is telling lawmakers and anyone who’ll listen.

David Penry of Pacific Landscapes, Inc. got involved when the House of Representatives passed its enforcement-only bill in December. Lobbying in Washington, D.C. in March, he caught the ear of the Manhattan Institute’s Tamar Jacoby, a leading writer on immigration and a conservative advocate for immigration reform.

Struck by his passion, Jacoby suggested he appear in a television spot aimed at Washington lawmakers.

Penry talked it over with business partner Darryl Orr.

“I realized there was a potential downside,” he recalled. “But we decided that Pacific Landscapes Inc. had to take a public position on the issue.”

The spot ran on April 1 and cost $130,000 to shoot and air.

Soon the Sonoma County, Calif. businessman was taking calls from The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

The Times featured him in an April 6 story on the issue.

“This was very, very scary, doomsday legislation for business,” he told the paper. “When the House bill passed, I realized it needs to be all hands on board. I was shocked.”

Cyndi Smallwood is another California Landscape Contractors Association member who traveled to Washington in March. Articulate and passionate, she found herself quoted in the Sacramento Bee, the Orange County Register and other news outlets.

“I was most shocked at the Republican Party being against small business,” she told the Bee. “They don’t get that there is a labor shortage.”

Smallwood operates Diversified Landscape Management in Mission Viejo, Calif.

The Senate debate has sparked a firestorm that has turned into one of the biggest issues today. Emotions are strong on both sides. The Senate debate is continuing, and the storm of controversy shows no sign of blowing over.

Other landscaping business owners can join the lobbying and educational effort. Interested parties should contact their state or local landscape contractors’ associations.

Working for the cause pays off, Penry said.

“When you sit down and explain the facts to people, they usually listen—and you can often change their opinion,” he said.

More information is available at the American Nursery and Landscape Association and Professional Landcare Network web sites. The addresses are: or

Older Comments
Name: Patrick TracyWrote in with general comment
Comment: The law requires that businesses verify legal ( or illegal) status of employees prior to hiring. Law abiding businesses have nothing to fear, they should be legal anyway. Who do you think is paying the difference for all the wefare, hospitalization and unpaid taxes that is going to illegals? Yes its you and me. The law should be changed to make jail time for business owners manditory, that would stop the illegals and eliminate the problems they are causing in our Country as they would go home for lack of work.

Name: Cathy aaaaWrote in with general comment
Comment: I am really glad that David Penry spoke up about his fellings on ILLEGALS now I know to never use his company for my landscaping needs.

Name: Ronald McGannWrote in with general comment
Comment: I wanted to comment on your article “Landscapers Lobby Senate on Immigration”. Illegal is the operative term here. I am a contractor. I did not/will not hire any illegal people who are not United States citizens. The contractors who DID are in the wrong. Period. Those people should be sent back and the companies fined. Now what happens? Someone out there has been getting their grass mowed (trees trimmed, shrubs clipped, pool cleaned, house built… pick one) for $x an hour. Now their grass is growing and there are no local citizens that want to do the job for $x, and that’s all the customer is willing to pay. As the grass gets higher the customer either does it himself - or is now willing to pay $xx. No one wants to do it for $xx. As the grass becomes knee high, the customer is now willing to pay $xxxxx. NOW there may be some locals willing to cut grass for $xxxxx! What don’t you businesses understand about the law of supply and demand???? In fact, when it comes to illegal, what don’t you understand about the law?

Name: Sharon LavyWrote in with correction comment
Comment: The chart included with this article gives the percent of estiamted workers who are illegal immigrants along with native born workers. All immigrants are not illegal and I resent this implication. We pay thousands of dollars each year to bring our immigrants in on a guest worker program.

Name: Robert ( Bob ) HallWrote in with general comment
Comment: Dave, My hat is off to you and your position as I find myself in exactly the same situation as you. My staff has always been largely Hispanic and my guys are more like family than staff. If there is anything I can do to help you in this matter, please consider calling me. Once again, you are an admirable man, an American and doing the right thing the right way. Bob Hall

Name: Kathleen MartsWrote in with general comment
Comment: Here in Hamilton County, Ohio one cannot get a landscaping job since the prerequisite is to speak Spanish fluently and not to have a college education. I should know. My son was denied a such a landscaping job. As a currently retired teacher with a masters degree, give me the job. I would love the out of door work rather than substitute teaching which doesn\'t pay nearly as well as a landscaper! Even my other son with a college degree would jump at a $70,000 a year job. As the grandaughter of a legal immigrant who respected the laws, I follow as one who has also respects the laws and statutes of the United States and would proudly become a landscaper. I would expect no less from my employer.

Name: Sheila NormanWrote in with general comment
Comment: I am working on locating images for a College level writers textbook. The Authors have requested to use the online image of Dave Penry. Please let me know who I should contact for permission. Thanks. Sheila Norman


June 27, 2016, 12:08 am EST

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