Ag Immigration Reform

Written By: Steve Dutton, President
Published: April 1, 2018

In recent months there has been much talk and effort by the U.S. Senate to reform the United State’s immigration policy. During the month of February, there were four votes in the U.S. Senate on different immigration amendments. All four failed to gain the 60 votes needed for approval some by as little as seven votes.

Why is it so difficult for Republicans and Democrats to find common ground and make meaningful change? In three of the proposed amendments, there was a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children also known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. It seems logical to me to give them a path to being in the U.S. legally. There are here already! They are all using the system! If they aren’t criminals, let them become legal. Unfortunately, all these proposed amendments failed.

Seems like history is repeating itself. In 2013 the “Gang of Eight” brought an immigration bill to the senate which passed by a bipartisan super majority. This bill was then never even considered in the house. Why not? Why is immigration such an issue with so many problems?
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell stated in February, “there is no reason why we should not reach a bipartisan solution this week. But to do this, we need to get the debate started, look past many political points and focus on actually making a law.”

The most recent bill being proposed is the Agricultural Guestworker Act or Ag Act which has been inserted into the Securing America’s Future Act. This Republican sponsored package includes border wall funding, internal immigration enforcement and a legislative solution for DACA. The Ag Act, which is essentially the Goodlatte bill proposed last year, would replace H2A with H2C.

The H2C proposal has some good parts in it like removing the housing and transportation barriers, giving the Department of Agriculture authority over it and changing from a ten month contract to a three year contract. But it also has some bad parts in it like capping the number of visas to 450,000, 10,000 short of California’s 460,000 estimated ag workers and less than a third of the estimated 1.5 million ag workers throughout the country. The most onerous part of the bill is that it would require ag employers to use E-verify which could disqualify much of the current ag workforce and it has no language for these workers to become legal or qualified for U.S. employment.

For me, the biggest issue I see with the potential proposed amendment of any immigration reform is that we assume all migrant workers want to be U.S. citizens. In fact, there really needs to be two pieces of legislation or two parts: one that considers a legal path to citizenship especially for the “dreamers” who where born in the U.S. and do not know another life, and a separate path that supports a work visa program making it more viable to bring a workforce over here for a limited period of time to fulfill jobs that no one in the U.S.

wants. This would create tremendous opportunities for these temporary workers from Mexico and other countries.

This is what baffles me most – Democrats want to support the social idea of “dreamers” and Republicans want to ensure a path for a strong economy. These two ideas can live together, we just need to get out of our own way!

So, I can write all this and just be frustrated on paper (and I am sure many of you are as frustrated as me), but the only real way to bring change is to engage in the conversation with one of our U.S. Senators or Congressmen. I know I will be!

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