During the House Republicans three-day retreat, key principles for immigration reform were released. It maintained that the problems with the immigration system must be solved through a step-by-step, common-sense approach and that it would not go to conference with the Senate on its “massive piece of legislation that few have read and even fewer understand.”
The GOP outline called for a path to citizenship for young people brought to the U.S. as children and granting a form of legal status allowing many other immigrants now in the U.S. illegally to stay here. It also would make changes to the visa system for high-tech and agriculture workers, improve border security and mandate the use of a biometric system—using markers such as fingerprints—for visitors exiting as well as entering the U.S.
A summary of the principles said, “The goal of any temporary worker program should be to address the economic needs of the country and to strengthen our national security by allowing for realistic, enforceable, usable, legal paths for entry into the United States. Of particular concern are the needs of the agricultural industry, among others. It is imperative that these temporary workers are able to meet the economic needs of the country and do not displace or disadvantage American workers.”
A statement from the United Farmworkers said they were pleased to read that Republicans agreed that it is imperative that temporary workers do not displace or disadvantage American workers. “This would be a departure from the current agricultural visa proposal in the House HR 1773 (Goodlatte), which includes fewer protections for current farm workers than even the infamous ‘bracero’program of the 1940s and 1950s,” Arturo S. Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers of America said in a statement.
A statement from the Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC) applauded the efforts of the House GOP and noted that, “As GOP representatives engage in this process, the AWC asks that any immigration reforms ensure that farmers, ranchers and growers have access to a workforce, both in the short- and long-term. It is also vital that any reforms work for all types of agriculture, including those with both seasonal and year-round labor needs. This requires a legislative solution that deals with the current unauthorized but experienced agricultural workforce and meets future needs through a new visa program that will admit a sufficient number of willing and able workers in a timely manner.”
American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman said the proposal is a “positive step in moving this process forward.” AFBF hopes the GOP will provide the needed framework to move ahead a legislative solution for America’s agricultural labor shortage in this Congress.
Tom Nassif, Western Growers president and chief executive officer, indicated that, “I applaud Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Cantor, and Whip Kevin McCarthy for their efforts to move immigration forward in the House. The standards leadership have drafted represent a commitment to reforming our immigration system in a manner that respects the rule of law while strengthening the ability for agriculture to remain competitive in the world market. We especially applaud the specific acknowledgement of agriculture’s unique needs and look forward to working towards crafting a long term solution.”