Waiting on immigration reform

04/19/2013 10:06:00 AM
The Packer Editorial Board

Hundreds of hours of hard work from fresh produce and other agriculture interests went into the Senate immigration reform bill introduced in mid-April.

The bill proposes to address the problem of the roughly 1.2 million illegal laborers in the agriculture sector with a guest worker program, and it even has the support from a prominent labor group, the United Farm Workers of America.

But while agriculture lobbyists celebrate a victory, we still need to look at reality.

First, it’s a proposed bill in the Senate. While it has four Democratic and four Republican co-sponsors, it’s not really a bipartisan solution. It’s still being criticized in conservative circles calling the path to citizenship “amnesty” by another name. It will likely get debate in the Senate, which will illuminate some of the provisions, which may not be popular.

Second, even if it passes the Senate, it will have major challenges in the House of Representatives, which is controlled by the Republicans. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over immigration, released a statement April 18 that said the bill “repeats some of the same mistakes from the past.”

And third, while agriculture lobbyists say this bill gives growers access to a “stable workforce,” that’s just a theory. The phase-in period lasts several years, and no one knows how this bill, if made law, would result, even if stable is the goal.

As the industry has learned many times over, new laws are rarely hassle-free.

It’s still worth working on, though.

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