WASHINGTON, D.C. — The success of immigration reform this year could be determined by the actions of grower, business and labor advocates as much as lawmakers and President Obama, Robert Guenther believes.
Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., said the immigration issue has the most energy and momentum as any time since 2006.
But the fate of the issue may be settled by how greedy immigration reform advocates become, he said.
“Part of this is going to be how interested stakeholders on all sides of this very complicated issue — agriculture, the broader business community, unions, farm worker advocates — are these people going to start overreaching?” Guenther said Feb. 20.
Guenther said that while there is bipartisan support for reform in the House and Senate, a comprehensive immigration deal isn't a slam dunk.
Immigration reform was supported by President Bush in 2006, along with both Democratic and Republican members of Congress, Guenther said. However, posturing and overreaching by opposing factions of the debate led to the breakdown in the process.
Beyond bipartisan plans being negotiated in the Senate and House, the White House was circulating a draft immigration bill that includes a provision for a visa for illegal immigrants and would allow them to become legal permanent residents in eight years, according to an article in USA Today.
The White House plan didn't mention a reformed guest worker program, said Frank Gasperini, executive vice president for Vienna, Va.-based National Council of Agricultural Employer.
“It's troubling,” he said. “We have to have a flow of foreign workers.”
Gasperini said immigration reform is overshadowed by budget issues. The gun control debate could also curb progress on immigration reform, he said.
“The potential (for immigration reform) is still certainly there, but it still really needs to happen in 2013 or we are probably beat down until 2015,” Gasperini said.