Despite two California Republican representatives who have thrown their support behind comprehensive immigration reform, agriculture advocates say it remains an uphill battle for action on immigration reform this year in the House of Representatives.
California Republicans Reps. David Valadao and Jeff Denham made news in late October when they said they backed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, a House bill that is similar to the Senate-passed immigration bill passed in June. The primary difference between the Senate-passed immigration bill and the House version is new language for border security provisions. Denham and Valadao join Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., as Republican supporters of comprehensive immigration reform.
In a statement issued Oct. 30, Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers of America, commended the stand of the Valadao, a Republican who represents part of Kern County in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
“A revised system that is fair to agricultural workers and makes business sense will benefit our Central Valley, state and country,” Rodriguez said in the statement. “We urge Congressman Valadao to help persuade the Republican leadership, including House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, to bring H.R. 15 for a vote.”
The calendar and the wishes of the House leadership are working against the comprehensive bill, said Kristi Boswell, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, Washington, D.C.
Regardless of H.R. 15 garnering the support of a few House Republicans and many Democrats, Boswell said House Republican leadership favors a “piece by piece” approach to immigration reform.
“Despite the good efforts of trying to make the comprehensive bill passed by the Senate more bipartisan, the likelihood of that bill being put on the House floor is still very low,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association.
While the comprehensive bill won’t have broad bipartisan support, Boswell said more Republicans may publicly express the need for action on immigration legislation.
Guenther said members of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, which includes United Fresh, the American Farm Bureau Federation, Western Growers, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, U.S. Apple Association and other groups, met in later October with both Republican and Democratic leaders about immigration legislation.
“We’re working with both sides, and we’re doing as much as we can to keep the pressure on the House of Representatives to bring something to the floor so we can start debating on immigration reform.,” Guenther said Oct. 31.
Boswell said Oct. 31 that Farm Bureau is still hopeful that House leadership will bring immigration legislation passed out of committee to the floor.
“Everyone is grappling with getting to the magical number of 218,” she said.
Some House Republicans don’t want to go to conference with the Senate’s bill and therefore don’t want any action on immigration legislation, she said. Meanwhile, House Democrats are uncomfortable with the “piece by piece” approach of House Republicans because they aren’t confident that Republicans want to handle all the immigration issues other than just enforcement provisions.
“It’s definitely a tricky climate right now,” Boswell said. “With only 17 working days left in the year, the odds of it happening in this calendar year are getting bleaker and bleaker by the day,” she said.
However, Boswell said sufficient bipartisan support for the piece by piece approach could mean that immigration reform efforts continue into early next year.