JACKSON, Miss.–The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has made a swing through the Magnolia state this week talking on numerous topics and had a couple of stops.
One of those came in Jackson on Thursday at the Ag Museum where he held a town hall meeting.
He spoke on several topics like the Farm Bill currently in D.C. along with some economic initiatives they’re currently looking about implementing.
One of the more interesting things Vilsack spoke to reporters about after the meetings was on illegal immigration and how it plays into the agriculture industry around the country.
“About 1.1 million people work in agriculture today, and probably about 70-percent of them are not citizens,” he said. “And the vast majority who are not citizens, are not here legally.”
Vilsack talked about the “sad reality” that farmers are not growing everything they’re capable of planting and are moving some operations south of the border because of lack of a stable workforce.
“It requires a stable workforce and comprehensive immigration reform,” he said. “That creates an opportunity for people in the shadows today to come out and earn their way to citizenship.”
When asked if asked if rewarding people for coming into the country illegally was a good idea Vilsack said it wouldn’t be a reward because of the thousands of dollars of fines those illegal aliens would pay.
“That’s what we do in this country, if you violate the law you either pay a fine or go to prison,” he said. “And we’re not going to put all those people in prison.”
He said that type of reform would make them have to pay taxes, contribute to deficit reduction, shore up social security system, and would ultimately keep the workforce stable for the agriculture industry.
“These jobs are made available to Americans, and a lot of them are interested in doing other work.”
Vilsack said it’s unrealistic to think the country can deport everyone here illegally.