(Sept. 15) WASHINGTON, D.C. — Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez continued the immigration focus in the capitol, saying U.S. economic growth is dependent on immigrant labor.

Gutierrez told Washington Public Policy Conference attendees Sept. 13 that the economy is growing at about twice the rate as in the European Union and that it can’t continue to do so without comprehensive immigration reform.

Directing his comments specifically to produce industry members at the United Fresh Produce Association event, he said, “Border control alone will not solve the problem and will not solve your problem.”

He stressed the Bush administration prefers a solution similar to the Senate bill that features a guest worker program over the House bill that focuses mainly on border control and enforcement.

“Your industry has to tell Washington what the real world is like,” he said at the United Fresh Produce Association event. Attendees lobbied Congress later in the day, with immigration reform as the headline topic.

Gutierrez also said that when immigrants arrive in the U.S., their top priority should be to learn the language, which brought cheers from the breakfast session.

“We’re both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants,” he said. “We can be both.”