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Make Your Voices Heard

By Bruce Fordyce

Recently, the Supreme Court struck down much of Arizona's 2010 immigration law, but it upheld for now a key provision requiring police officers to check the immigration status of suspected illegal immigrants.

The provision on mandatory checks during routine stops will now kick back to a lower court for review and still could still be subject to challenge. The rest of the ruling, however, strikes down three other provisions in the Arizona law.

The provisions made it a crime for immigrants to seek employment without work permits, not carry immigration papers, and allowed police to arrest people they suspected had committed a deportable crime. Without the latter provision, the requirement to conduct routine immigration checks has little enforcement power behind it

The court was unanimous in allowing the immigration checks to go forward, but they were split on the rest. The decision now opens questions on how other states that followed the Arizona model will proceed.

Immigration and the Landscape Contractor

While the law has passionate opponents on either side, it has a direct impact on the landscape industry. Although direct statistics on this are scarce, common sense tells us that Latinos make up a large percentage of landscape workers relative to the population as a whole. Thus, any significant reduction in the employable Latino population has a bigger impact.

To illustrate how important this issue is to landscape contractors and maintenance companies, one only need reference a recent LandscapeOnline article: Landscapers Lobby Senate On Immigration.

In the article, landscaping business owners cross the country to lobby lawmakers, shoot TV ads and speak to journalists about the landscape industry's huge stake in the immigration debate. According to the article, landscape contractor businesses will be crippled if enforcement is beefed up without an accompanying guest-worker program.

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 attracted the attention 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. After talking it over with his business partner, Penry agreed.

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

The ''pro immigration labor'' spot aired April 1, 2012 on multiple Washington, D.C. cable channels and cost $130,000 to shoot and air.

Soon the Sonoma County, California 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 onboard. I was shocked.''

Cyndi Smallwood of Diversified Landscape Management in Mission Viejo, California also traveled to Washington in March. Smallwood was subsequently quoted in various news outlets.

Take A Stand

Regardless of which side you stand on in this issue, reaching out to the media and pressuring members of Congress to actually do their job is as American as blowing up stuff and weenie roasts on the Fourth of July. And when Congress has an approval rating below 20 percent because they ca''t seem to make any forward progress, pushing your case to their doorstep is even more important. And progress is possible, as Perry concluded: ''When you sit down and explain the facts to people, they usually listen--and you can often change their opinion.''

And hopefully get something done.

Bruce Fordyce, Editor

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December 14, 2019, 8:07 am PDT

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