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9973 Timber Oaks Court Orlando, Florida 32817
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    One Year Anniversary of Senate Bill and Dimmed Hope for Congressional Immigration Reform

    One Year Anniversary of Senate Bill and Dimmed Hope for Congressional Immigration Reform

    Today marks the one year anniversary of the Senate passage of a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill; but it is not a date to celebrate. Knowledgeable members of Congress announced that the House is very unlikely to pass immigration reform either before or after the August recess. The prospects for legislation are dim but the fight to fix our broken immigration system must continue.


    The Senate bill, S.744, while far from perfect, includes the agricultural stakeholder agreement, critical international labor recruitment protections, and a path for many undocumented immigrants to become citizens. Despite bipartisan support for this bill, and its House counterpart, HR 15, the House has failed to move forward, amid a parade of excuses by the House leadership. Opponents claim that President Obama cannot be “trusted” to enforce a new immigration law even though this Administration has conducted an unprecedented number of deportations and new legislation likely would be implemented primarily by his successor. Most recently, obstructions claimed that Eric Cantor’s primary election loss and the crisis of youths crossing our southern border (described below) justify inaction or one-sided, limited legislation.


    While there probably remains a slim chance that the House will take up immigration reform in July or during the “lame duck” session of Congress after the November elections, many organizations and immigration advocates are moving on for now. Rep. Gutierrez (D-IL) spoke on the House floor Wednesday, announcing that he has finally given up on waiting for Republicans to act and that it will now be up to the President to modify deportation priorities and provide some form of temporary status for many undocumented immigrants.


    On Thursday, Rep. Gutierrez hosted a press conference with other Members of Congress and the advocacy groups Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), NCLR (the National Council of La Raza), and America’s Voice, proclaiming their disappointment with House inaction and calling on the President to act. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democrats also held a press conference Thursday urging Speaker Boehner to bring a bill to the floor in July. At least one Republican Member of the House still thinks that immigration reform is possible this year. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) says she remains “cautiously optimistic” but views the July window as a last opportunity.


    Although President Obama should take additional action, Congress remains the only option for true immigration reform as it is the only body of our government that can provide lawful permanent residency with a path to citizenship. Until the August recess, Farmworker Justice will continue to support efforts in Congress to pass immigration reform, even as we press the White House for administrative relief from the broken immigration system.

    There remains the question of what kind of reform the House would pass even if it does vote on immigration legislation and then how the House and Senate would reach a compromise on a final bill that could be signed by the President. Some legislators would allow undocumented immigrants to remain the country under certain conditions but without an opportunity to earn citizenship. Some conservative groups and individuals, however, would follow the lead of the Senate bill. An Op-ed in Politico by Sheldon Adelson, a major funder of conservative causes, calls for the House to act on immigration reform with a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants. Another op-ed this week by representatives of AGree, an agribusiness collaborative, urged Congress to take up immigration reform for agriculture. Unfortunately, the op-ed focused on the need for an agricultural guestworker program and only briefly mentioned the need to legalize undocumented farmworkers, without an explicit call for a path to citizenship. The AGree principles do recognize the need to “[e]nsure quality of life, good working conditions, and opportunities for food and agriculture workers.” It is troubling, however, that the employers who benefit from the labor of undocumented immigrants often fail to publicly advocate for the opportunity for undocumented farmworkers to become full and equal members of our society.