KEY principles for immigration reform were released during House Republicans' three-day retreat Jan. 29-31.
The plan maintains that the problems with the immigration system must be solved through a step-by-step, commonsense approach, and the representatives said they would not go to conference with the Senate on its "massive piece of legislation that few have read and even fewer understand."
The Republicans' outline calls for a path to citizenship for young people brought to the U.S. as children and granting a form of legal status that allows many other immigrants who are now in the U.S. illegally to stay here.
It also would make changes to the visa system for high-tech and agricultural 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.
"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," a summary of the principles explains. "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 Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC) applauded the efforts of the House Republicans and noted that as those "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," AWC added. "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."
The Farm Bureau hopes the Republican representatives will provide the framework needed to advance a legislative solution for America's agricultural labor shortage during this Congress.