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

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