- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 3, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Proclaiming that the nation’s immigration system does not work and actually encourages illegal immigration, a coalition of Oklahoma business and community leaders called on Congress Wednesday to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Supporters, including Republican state Sen. Brian Crain, encouraged national policymakers to create a guest-worker program for immigrants and to make the path to U.S. citizenship easier as they unveiled the Reasons to Reform campaign, part of a national effort to encourage Congress to simplify immigration guidelines.

“The immigration system that we have today is broken,” said Crain, whose Senate district includes a large Hispanic population. He said Congress should develop an immigration program that will encourage the nation’s growth and “make us a better country tomorrow than we are today.”

Terry Detrick, president of American Farmers and Ranchers of Oklahoma City, said a guest-worker program would encourage law-abiding, taxpaying seasonal workers to work through crop harvests in the state and then return to their homes and families. Some might want to pursue citizenship, Detrick said.

“It’s currently sometimes quicker to get into this country illegally than legally,” Detrick said at a state Capital news conference.

Jake Fisher, a partner in a digital and multicultural marketing firm in Oklahoma City, said low-skilled workers in rural Mexico earn about 10 percent of what they would earn in the U.S.

“We need to know who is in the United States. But we also need to make sure that our laws make sense,” Fisher said.

Crain acknowledged that the immigration reform proposal is not supported in the Republican Party platform, which in part calls for a massive wall along the U.S-Mexico border.

“The border wall must cover the entirety of the southern border,” the platform states, adding that “the presence of millions of unidentified individuals in this country poses grave risks to the safety and sovereignty of the United States.”

“There are many things that I believe in the Republican platform,” Crain said. “Do I believe in everything? No.”

Statistics provided by the group indicate that immigrants make up 5.7 percent of Oklahoma’s population and contribute $1.1 billion in taxes to the state. In 2014, immigrants earned $4.2 billion, more than 4 percent of all earnings. Immigrants who are in the country without documentation earned $1.4 billion in 2014 and paid about $150 million in local, state and federal taxes, according to the coalition’s information.

The group said most of its data came from a variety of publicly available resources, principally the 2014 American Community Survey.

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