Ag Policy Blog

Immigration Debate Merry-Go-Round

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
Connect with Chris:
Farm workers rallied for immigration reform in 2013 but they oppose the guest-worker provisions being debated in the House now. (DTN file photo by Chris Clayton)

Issues linked directly to farmers are coming fast and furious in Washington right now. The Senate farm bill is on the floor; EPA proposed its renewable fuel obligations for 2019; tariffs are hitting U.S. industries -- with the big ones for agriculture potentially landing July 6 with China.

And then there's immigration. You got the family situation at the border, the DACA youth and the overall focus on just how many people the U.S. will allow into the country for any kind of visa. And that includes the agricultural workforce.

A House vote last week on one bill failed. Another one comes up today. The agricultural guest-worker provisions in last week's bill have been added into the new bill. Those provisions would scrap the current H-2A temporary ag worker program and replace it with a new program, dubbed H-2C, that would allow farmers and other employers to bring in 410,000 foreign workers for farm jobs as well as 40,000 foreign workers for meatpacking plants. The provisions also shift oversight of the agricultural guest worker program from the Department of Labor to USDA.

Undocumented farmworkers already in the United States also could have gained legal status by enrolling in the H-2C program, although they would have had to leave the United States and apply for re-entry.

According to Associated Press, just like last week's vote, the House immigration bill today could go down in flames as well. "A far-reaching Republican immigration bill is careening toward likely House rejection," AP wrote in its lead sentence in an article about the bill.

The bill will fail mainly because it was written only to satisfy Republican lawmakers. It's practically a given that no Democrats will support it. But there's also a faction of Republicans who aren't going to support it. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who has taken up the mantle as one of the most anti-immigrant, if not the most anti-immigrant lawmaker in the House, tweeted early Wednesday, "Today’s Ryan Amnesty Bill (HR 6136) is much worse than the defeated Goodlatte #1 Amnesty bill. Instant amnesty is 2.2 million & cumulative = 5.54 million. Heritage Action’s analysis is here:"

Heritage posted a checkmate charge declaring HR 6136, the so-called "Compromise Bill," provides six-year renewable legal status for up to 2.4 million currently illegal immigrants, with a path to citizenship," dubbed "amnesty" by opponents such as King. Heritage doesn't like the bill. https://heritageaction.com/…

The bill did get late support Wednesday through a tweet by President Donald Trump in all capital letters: "HOUSE REPUBLICANS SHOULD PASS THE STRONG BUT FAIR IMMIGRATION BILL, KNOWN AS GOODLATTE II, IN THEIR AFTERNOON VOTE TODAY, EVEN THOUGH THE DEMS WON’T LET IT PASS IN THE SENATE. PASSAGE WILL SHOW THAT WE WANT STRONG BORDERS & SECURITY WHILE THE DEMS WANT OPEN BORDERS = CRIME. WIN!"

If the House passes a bill, it goes to the Senate, just like the legislative process taught to us in Schoolhouse Rock. On Tuesday, I got to squeeze in a quick question to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, on a call with reporters. And I asked about immigration because Grassley chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. In other words, he chairs the committee that any immigration bill must clear if it's going to move in the Senate. I asked Grassley if he's been lobbied at all by the White House on immigration, because if the White House wants an immigration bill then it would seem pretty logical to talk to the chairman of the committee that might oversee that bill.

"No, I think the lobbying at the White House is all in the House of Representatives," Grassley said.

Do you think the Senate will take up a House bill if it passes?

"I think if they move a bill this week it will enhance the opportunities of something coming up in the Senate, but you have got to remember (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell said he would only bring up a bill if it was certain it would be bipartisan and if the president would sign it."

Grassley said the Senate spent a week on immigration in February but didn't get anywhere.

"With the crowded agenda of the United States Senate, we'd have to make sure it's bipartisan."

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Comments

To comment, please Log In or Join our Community .