From limited changes to ag worker visas to a comprehensive immigration overhaul – what political and business leaders want

Attorney General Josh Stein

Politicians, businesspeople, and academic leaders from North and South Carolina spoke up for changes to U.S. immigration laws last week. Some supported comprehensive changes, while others focused on narrower issues.

The American Business Immigration Coalition Carolinas’ Chapter held the summit last week, where most participants provided prerecorded statements.

The coalition wants bipartisan support for immigration bills in Congress, including two U.S. House bills – one that overhauls the H-2A temporary visa program for agricultural workers, and provides for undocumented farmworkers to gain legal status, and a second that gives DACA recipients who go to college, into the military or to work after high school a way to become citizens. The bills passed the House earlier this month.

The coalition also supports a comprehensive immigration overhaul introduced in the U.S. Senate.

The summit brought together politicians with diverse views, including NC Attorney General Josh Stein and Gov. Roy Cooper, both Democrats, and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican. A representative from U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s office also participated.

Not all spoke in support of the major changes the coalition wants.

Marty Kotis

Scott, in brief remarks, focused on the H-2A program.

Katherine Nikas, chief deputy counsel for Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, spoke of Graham’s long-standing support for DACA recipients, or Dreamers.

“This is their home, they don’t have any other to go back to,” she said.

Graham cosponsored a bill this year with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, that would allow DACA recipients to become permanent residents and citizens.

Discussions about Dreamers have been overshadowed by the thousands of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, she said.

The country needs to find a solution for Dreamers “and not ignore the second wave at the border,” Nikas said.

Marty Kotis, a Greensboro businessman who describes himself as libertarian, said the country needs immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship.

“We need a path to citizenship that is organized and safe that doesn’t encourage illegal activity,” he said. “We should expand opportunity for high and low-skilled workers who will be productive and respectful members of society. That requires immigration reform that provides opportunity and holds people accountable for their actions and their efforts in this country.”

Stein, who sued the Trump Administration in 2019 over its attempt to revoke DACA, said Congress should enact comprehensive changes.  The U.S. Senate should at least pass the immigration bills the House passed this month, he said.

“Our immigration system is broken,” he said. “For too long, too many politicians have used this issue to drive wedges among us to gain partisan advantage rather than doing the hard but necessary work of governing by developing balanced common-sense policies based on compromise.”

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