Though some House Republicans still seem hesitant to support a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., Congress opened the door on immigration reform with a hearing by the House Judiciary Committee.
With rumors of comprehensive immigration legislation being worked on by bipartisan groups in the House and Senate, Washington sources said there appears to be momentum for reform.
Kristi Boswell, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, Washington, D.C., said a Feb. 5 hearing helped educate members on immigration issues.
Boswell said it is unclear how the majority Republicans intend to approach the issue.
“Personally, I think piece-by-piece is more likely the approach in the House, giving the chance for members to look at each individual issue separately, but I don’t think there is a set path determined at this point,” she said Feb. 7.
Boswell said the House won’t be able to tackle enforcement without a solution for agriculture, she said.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the committee, said at the hearing that U.S. laws put unnecessary hurdles before U.S. growers.
“Our agriculture guest worker program is simply unworkable and needs to be reformed,” he said at the hearing.
Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., ranking Democrat on the committee, said during the hearing that legislation should give undocumented workers an opportunity to become citizens.
The question of what to do with illegal immigrants was a hot topic at the hearing, said Wendy Fink-Weber, senior director of communications for Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers.
Questions focused on failings of the 1986 immigration reform law. Immigration reform must eliminate incentives for illegal immigration, lawmakers said at the hearing.