Immigration Reform News

December 19, 2019

Farm Workforce Modernization Act passes U.S. House of Representatives, sent to U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

The US agriculture industry has been trying for over 20 years to pass legislation to secure a stable and legal workforce. We came close in 2006 with the McCain-Kennedy bill, a “comprehensive immigration reform” bill which had agriculture provisions.  It missed passing out of the Senate by one vote.  We came close again in 2013 with S. 744, another “comprehensive immigration reform” bill with an agriculture section which passed out of the Senate on a bi-partisan vote.  There were enough votes in the House to pass it, but wasn’t allowed to come up for a vote in the House by then Speaker John Boehner.  The agriculture provisions in both of these efforts were the result of negotiations with labor.  Because immigration is a complex issue that crosses the lines of many other issues such as labor, business and employment and criminal justice, it typically takes a strong bi-partisan effort to pass a bill.  But because of the polarized political environment of Congress over the past few years, and because our industry needs a legislative change now, proponents of agriculture immigration reform thought it would be better to try passing an agriculture specific immigration bill, rather than wait for conditions more favorable to a comprehensive bill to develop. The agriculture industry, through its existing national coalitions and organizations focused on labor and immigration, like the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, the Agriculture Workforce Coalition and the National Council of Agricultural Employers, has worked in the background over the past couple of years to develop an agriculture-only immigration reform bill.   An early result of the effort was the much more conservative bill, the “Goodlatte Bill”, which failed in a vote in the Republican-led House in June of 2018.  The Goodlatte bill did not have widespread support in the ag industry.   After the 2018 election, negotiations between industry and labor reps began again with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) leading the charge.  Rep. Lofgren is Chair of the Immigration Sub-committee of the House Committee on the Judiciary.    Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), responding to urgent industry concern about labor and the H-2A program in Washington State, joined the effort to work with Rep. Lofgren to negotiate a bill that would have the support of the agriculture industry and labor, so that it would have a chance of passing out of the House. The result is the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, H.R. 5038, was introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) on October 30th, 2019. Rep. Newhouse is an original co-sponsor of the bill.  About 300 ag groups have signed on in support of the bill. A notable exception is American Farm Bureau Federation.  Many groups, including the Washington Growers League, signed on to support the bill as a reasonable vehicle to move the issue forward.  The bill has its downsides, but that is to be expected in any compromise bill.   The bill does protect our existing workforce, which is a key feature. It also reforms the H-2A program and most importantly, the way that the H-2A wage is calculated.  But it also imposes mandatory E-verify on agriculture, which is threatening if the guest worker provisions don’t result in an adequate workforce.  Below are the key points of the bill, which has passed out of committee and is headed to the House floor. There are reportedly 23 Republican votes in the House now, and possibly more that are undeclared.  With that vote count, it is possible to get the 218 votes necessary to pass the H.R. 5038 out of the House.        

Title I. Earned Status for Certified Agricultural Workers

This title establishes a program for agricultural workers in the United States to get right with the law and earn legal status through continued agricultural employment and contribution to the U.S. agricultural economy.

ï        America’s farmers and ranchers are in desperate need of a legal, reliable workforce. President Trump has called for merit-based immigration reform, and that is exactly what this bill does.

ï        This bill creates a stringent employment-based program for our current agricultural workforce, requiring significant past and future work commitments, to ensure the stability of American agriculture.

ï        It includes strong biometric security for the current and incoming agriculture workforce, and it prohibits access to social safety net programs.

ï        Current H-2A visa holders can remain in the program as they are now.

1.           Initial Eligibility. Applicants must show at least 180 days of agricultural employment over the last 2 years. These are the same criteria as Rep. Goodlatte’s Ag bill in the 115th Congress. The applicant must also pass a background check.

2.           Five Year Renewable Visas. Qualified applicants are provided 5-year renewable agricultural work visas. Workers can renew their 5-year visas by working in agriculture each year. Those who have ag experience but do not meet the criteria for eligibility are provided the option of applying for H-2A visas.

3.           Option for Permanent Resident Status. Individuals have the opportunity, but are not required, to earn Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status. Those applying for LPR status must pay a $1,000 fine and meet one of the following criteria:           

     a.            If an individual worked in agriculture in the U.S. for at least 10 years before enactment, they must work at least 4 more years in agriculture on CAW status before they can apply.

     b.           If an individual worked in agriculture in the U.S. for less than 10 years, they must work at least 8 more years in agriculture on CAW status before they can apply. 

Title II. Improving the H-2A Program

ï        This bill would improve the H-2A visa program to work for all of agriculture.

ï        It would reduce the time and cost for growers who utilize the program, so they have access to a legal source of labor when they need it.

ï        It modernizes and applies caps to out-of-control wage growth in the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR).

ï        It streamlines the processing of H-2A petitions so growers can get farmworkers when they need them.

ï        It pilots a portable H-2A visa program to allow employers and farmworkers to respond more dynamically to labor needs.This title reforms the H-2A program to provide more flexibility for employers, while ensuring workers are protected. The bill focuses on making the H-2A program more responsive and user-friendly for employers.

 1.           Single Portal for Filing. Employers would now have a single filing process through an online portal, through which DHS, DOL, and State Workforce Agencies (SWAs) can process simultaneously (rather than sequentially in three different steps). This streamlining reduces costs and processing time for growers.

2.           Single Petition for Staggered Needs. Employers would now be able to file one petition reflecting staggered labor needs. For example, under the current program, if an employer needs 5 workers for tilling, another 10 workers for planting, and another 10 for harvesting, the employer must file 3 different petitions. This bill streamlines the process by allowing employers to file one petition for the whole season.

3.           Streamlined Recruiting. Employers would now be required to simply file a job posting on an electronic registry, rather than filing newspaper print advertisements.

4.           Wage Reform. The bill reforms H-2A wages to better reflect real-world wages, while protecting against sudden wage increases that disrupt employer planning and operations:

     a.            More Granular Wages. Rather than one wage determination for all farm labor, the bill adopts a proposal from the Trump Administration’s proposed H-2A rule to disaggregate wages for various agricultural occupations (e.g., crop workers, livestock workers, machine operators, graders and sorters, etc). This will ensure that wage requirements better reflect the real-world wages paid to specific types of workers. Some workers would see higher wages (machine operators), while others would see lower wages (crop workers, which account for the majority of incoming H-2A workers).

     b.           Limiting Wage Fluctuations. To prevent wage fluctuations, the bill limits wage increases/decreases, thus providing more stability and predictability for employers. Wages are governed as follows:

          i.           2020: One-year wage freeze—wages will not increase in 2020.

          ii.             2021-2029: Wages could not decrease by more than 1.5% or increase by more than 3.25%. Exception: If the resulting wage is less than 110% of the Federal or state minimum wage, then the wage could go up by up to an additional percent.

          iii.              2030 and Beyond: Current wage structure (AEWR) goes away and the Secretaries of Ag and Labor will determine a new wage structure through rule making. If that replacement is delayed, wages could not decrease by more than 1.5% or increase by more than 3.25%.

     c.            Limiting Mid-Contract Wage Increases. Wage requirements would now apply for the duration of the contract, rather than potentially fluctuating mid-contract.

5.           Reducing Housing Costs. The bill improves the availability of farmworker housing while lowering employer costs related to providing such housing.

          a.            Preserving Existing Housing. The bill adopts an improved version of the Rep. Clay bill, which was recently passed by the House, to prevent current farm- and rural-housing stock from serving other constituencies. Among other things, the bill authorizes $1 billion to rehabilitate housing that is aging out of USDA incentive programs, thus reopening eligibility for rental assistance and preserving housing stock for farmworkers.

          b.           Incentivizing New Housing. The bill triples the amount of funding for the USDA 514 loan program and 516 grant programs, which provides 1% loans and grants, respectively, for constructing new housing. The bill would also reform eligibility criteria to expand the use of those programs in more expensive housing markets.

          c.            Lowering Housing Costs. The bill reduces grower costs related to housing by increasing funding for the USDA 521 rental assistance grant program, while making H-2A housing eligible for the 521 operating assistance program.

Download the entire text of the bill HERE.

June 19, 2018

Press Release from the
House of Representatives Judiciary Committee

Goodlatte, Curbelo, McCaul, Denham Unveil the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act

Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), and Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) today unveiled the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018 (H.R. 6136), a consensus bill that is the product of negotiations between Republicans of all perspectives and addresses the four pillars for immigration reform outlined by President Donald Trump.

The consensus legislation provides robust border security and the funding needed to build a wall and infrastructure along the Southern border, contains more tools to help prevent illegal immigration and human smuggling, modernizes the United States’ immigration system, provides a legislative solution for those who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children without creating a special pathway to citizenship, creates a new merit-based immigration program that rewards those with the skills, education and work experience the U.S. needs, and remedies current law and court decisions to keep children and parents together as much as possible when they are apprehended.

Below is a statement from Chairman Goodlatte on the introduction of the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act.

Chairman Goodlatte: “For months, House Republicans from all perspectives have been working hard to find common ground on a bill to secure the border, restore the rule of law, and provide a legislative solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Our hard work has resulted in today’s introduction of the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act. This bill brings our immigration system into the 21st century, contains a number of tools to enhance border security, prevents illegal immigration, and combats fraud in our immigration system.

“It also provides those who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children an opportunity to earn a legal status. Importantly, the bill creates a new, merit-based system that is directly tied to the funding for the border wall, and the bill transitions some green card categories from extended family-based purposes to programs that reward those with the skills, work experience and education needed in the U.S. If Congress down the road seeks to rescind the funding for the border wall, new visas will not be allocated.

“We have an historic opportunity to pass the most significant border security and immigration reform legislation in over a decade, and I urge my colleagues in the House to support this bill when it is voted on later this week.”

Below are key components of the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act. Bill text can be found HERE.

Secures the Border: The bill provides nearly $25 billion in advance appropriations to build a wall along the Southern border. It also combats visa overstays by ensuring the biometric entry-exit program is completed so that we know whether or not those on temporary visas leave the U.S.
Contains More Tools to Prevent Illegal Immigration: The bill ends “catch and release,” increases the standard for credible fear to root out fraudulent claims, ensures unaccompanied alien children are returned safely and quickly to their home country, and provides the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the ability to detain dangerous criminal aliens, among their provisions.
Modernizes Our Immigration System: The bill ends the visa lottery, protects the nuclear family while reducing chain migration, reduces overall immigration numbers over the long term, and begins a shift to a merit-based system. It also shifts to a first-in-line visa system by eliminating the per-country cap on employment-based green cards and by increasing the cap on family-sponsored green cards from 7 to 15%.
Provides a Legislative Solution for DACA:

  • The legislation allows the DACA population – children who came to the U.S. as minors and grew up here – an opportunity to earn a legal status. If these individuals meet certain requirements they will be eligible for a 6-year renewable legal status, allowing them to work here and travel abroad.
  • Once they receive that status, they can use existing paths available to attempt to earn green cards, including through a new merit-based program that allows them (and others brought to the U.S. while children by their parents on H-1B and other visas) to earn green cards based on achieving educational degrees, English proficiency, vocational training and skills, work experience, and military service.
  • The bill also requires the border wall to be funded before new visas are available under the new merit-based program.

Keeps Families Together:

  • The legislation fixes a court decision, the Flores settlement, to ensure that children who are apprehended at the border with their parents are not separated from their parent or legal guardian while in DHS custody.
  • It also addresses family separation in light of the Zero Tolerance prosecution initiative by mandating that DHS, not the Department of Justice, maintain the custody of aliens charged with illegal entry along with their children. This would only apply to those who enter the country with children and would not permit those charged with felonies or any other criminal activity to be detained along with children. The bill allocates funding for family detention space to facilitate this requirement.
  • To enhance the safety of children, the bill prohibits releasing a child to any individual other than a parent or legal guardian.

December 20, 2017

Published by The Seattle Times

Cancellation of DACA is a blow to agricultural communities

by Mike Gempler

DACA status holders are working and studying to continue to be a strong and productive part of our American society.

Congress needs to pass a clean DREAM Act by the end of December. It’s the right thing to do for our country, and it is the best start toward resolving the larger immigration issues before us by creating an immigration system that allows us to protect the immigration of families and to protect our economy. Each day we wait, thousands of lives and families are being thrown into chaos, and our state is losing economic prosperity.

On Sept. 5, President Donald Trump rescinded the Obama executive order that gave two-year work permits and deferral of deportation to young people who were brought to the United States when they were younger than 16 (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA).

The cancellation of DACA is a blow to our agricultural communities, many of which have families that brought children with them as they came to work in Washington’s orchards, vineyards and fields. Most of these youths came at an early age and were educated and grew up here, while their families contributed to the economic prosperity of our state.

We don’t know how many of these DACA recipients are working in agriculture, but we suspect that the number is fairly small since most of them are in school or educated, and if they are working in agriculture, in addition to field work, they are likely to be employed in more technical or entry-level management positions.

We do know that there are many DACA kids who belong to the farmworker families living and working in Washington state’s agricultural communities. They are a substantial part of the Washington agriculture family.

DACA recipients, many of whom are young adults today, have grown up here in our rural communities. And for most of them the U.S. is the only home they know. DACA status holders are working and studying to continue to be a strong and productive part of our American society. They are part of the positive future of Washington state’s rural towns and economy. These are the smart young people who would be part of the agriculture industry’s technological future. We need these young people here in our country, which in almost every respect is their country too.

The cancellation of DACA makes no sense for America. It doesn’t make sense for our country’s economic health, it doesn’t make sense for American employers, and it’s not fair to immigrant youth. If a permanent solution is not authorized by Congress and these members of our community are deported, it will be an injustice, and our rural communities will be the worse for it.

For agriculture, DACA is just a part of the larger immigration issue, and our industry has been working hard to change laws so that we have a legal and stable workforce through additional broader legislation. But DACA recipients can’t wait for passage of legislation that addresses larger immigration issues. It is now up to Congress to pass a law enabling immigrant youth to gain an expedited pathway to citizenship by the end of December, and continue the lives they have made here in the United States since they were children.

The federal administration seems to favor combining the DACA provisions with other immigration elements, such as funding for a wall on the southern border, restriction on legal immigration numbers, or other enforcement measures. But the DACA recipients deserve a clean bill that gives them legal status before their DACA status runs out before the end of the year. We are counting on U.S. Reps. Dan Newhouse and Dave Reichert to lead the way, put partisan politics aside and support a clean DREAM Act that provides relief to the thousands of DACA recipients in our state.

May 8, 2017

Comments made by WGL Executive Director Mike Gempler
at the March for Immigrants 2017
in Yakima, Washington, on May 1, 2017

Now is the time for agriculture to
speak out for immigration reform

The new federal government has established an aggressive immigration enforcement policy and has staffed enforcement agencies with administrators and advisors who identify with extreme positions and organizations. As a result, immigration enforcement is changing, and that triggers the need for Congress to address immigration reform again. There are many unresolved issues in U.S. immigration laws that have justified action by Congress for many years. But with new enforcement policies there is an immediate need to act so that an "enforcement only" policy doesn't hurt our economy, our agricultural businesses, our agricultural communities and the people in our agricultural workforce. Unfortunately, somewhere around one-half of our agricultural workforce is reportedly undocumented. We in the agriculture industry have been working for over 20 years to find a way to create work authorization and visas for everyone in our workforce.

We need our workforce. We need the people who have immigrated here and who have come here on a temporary basis to work. We need immigration laws that protect our border, give our documents integrity, protect our economy and treat people fairly. We need to have a path to legalization for those undocumented people who have been here working and who have been good community members. We also need new and better ways for people to come from other countries to work temporarily on farms in the United States.

Thank you to the people who work on our farms and in our packinghouses. We respect you and we respect what you contribute to our industry and our community. You are valuable members of our community. You are taxpayer property owners, business owners, have families, and you are an essential part of our agricultural industry. Thank you for being part of our industry and helping to create a strong Washington State agriculture. Let us work together to achieve immigration reform that helps us all.

February 21, 2017

The Department of Homeland Security released today a memo titled "Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest," broadening the scope of immigration enforcement activities.

Click here to read the memo.

August 16, 2016 

Published by The Seattle Times

Immigrants are a crucial talent pool to keep Washington’s many industries — from tech to agriculture — competitive in an increasingly global economy

by Mike Gempler and Maud Daudon

WASHINGTON state is a great place to call home, and with good reason. Business is booming and neighborhoods are vibrant. Much of this, in large part, is because immigrants and refugees are setting down new roots and making vital contributions to grow our economy and workforce while strengthening communities across the state.

A new report by the Partnership for a New American Economy, “The Contributions of New American in Washington,” details what we already know to be true: Immigrants are essential to our economic growth and are adding to diversity in communities we call home. It’s a refreshing and fact-based analysis that counters much of the misguided national rhetoric about immigrants and immigration.

Immigrants have always been a driver of the American dream, from the founding of our nation to present day. Nearly 1 million of Washington’s residents are foreign-born, making up more than 13 percent of the total state population and 17 percent of the overall Washington workforce.

Immigrants are an integral part of business growth in many ways. Some of Washington’s biggest industry names — Costco, Boeing, Nordstrom, Amazon and Weyerhaeuser — were founded by an immigrant or a child of an immigrant.

Eighteen percent of all businesses in Washington are owned by immigrants. More than 70 percent of immigrants are between the ages 18 and 64 — prime working age — and are 33 percent more likely to be actively employed compared to an aging U.S.-born workforce in Washington. Immigrants are a crucial talent pool to keep Washington’s many industries — from tech to agriculture — competitive in an increasingly global economy.

The education and skills of immigrants and refugees are becoming increasingly diverse. Since 2010, there are now more high-skilled immigrants than low-skilled immigrants. Foreign-born adults age 25 or older hold college degrees from foreign universities at comparable rates to U.S.-born residents, with immigrants more likely to hold advance degrees than native-born residents. Immigrants are employed in many industries across the state, from farm work or leading innovations in software development and breakthroughs in biotech or research.

A robust Washington economy relies on having enough workers to keep pace with demand. Yet worker shortages are present all across the state for many employers.

Agriculture, which accounted for $7.5 billion of Washington’s 2014 gross domestic product, is struggling to find the number of workers needed to harvest crops ready to go to market. With Congress failing to act on comprehensive immigration reform, agricultural employees are growing more dependent on the H-2A visa system. But leaders in Washington’s agricultural industry often cite this program as too expensive or burdensome to meet industry need, while immigrant advocates argue that the guest-worker model falls short of providing migrant and native workers with adequate worker protections.

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) industries will likely see 800,000 new jobs nationally through 2024, but the current skills gap indicates there is one qualified worker for every 7.2 job openings. This mismatch could dampen economic growth. Foreign-born Washington workers account for 24 percent of the STEM workforce, often bringing needed cultural competencies and linguistic skills desired by their employers. However, outdated immigration laws and caps on the number of available H1-B visas make it difficult for employers to recruit in-demand foreign-born workers.

International students attending universities here in Washington also find it hard to grow roots here. Rather than allowing them to contribute to our economy, current laws force them to leave and take their skills, innovative ideas and entrepreneurial business concepts with them.

What we need is comprehensive immigration reform that reflects the needs of businesses, industries and the communities that immigrants contribute to. Immigrants and refugees often overcome numerous language and cultural barriers to make important contributions to Washington’s economy.

It’s time to recognize the contributions that immigrants bring to Washington state, and reject shortsighted political posturing that threatens to weaken our economy. The case for humane, common-sense immigration reform has never been more clear nor timely.

Mike Gempler is executive director of the Washington Growers League. Maud Daudon is president and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

August 3, 2016

Published by the Partnership for a New American Economy

Reason for Reform Campaign Highlights
New Data Showing the Economic Impact of
Immigrants in Washington 

Local leaders call for immigration reform in National Day of Action with events across all 50 states 

Seattle, WA -Today, local leaders from Washington came together for a Day of Action to showcase new research on immigration contributions in Washington and highlight the critical need for immigration reform. The event marked the launch of the Reason for Reform campaign, an effort taking place in all 50 states today, sponsored by the Partnership for a New American Economy (NAE). 

The Reason for Reform campaign brings together state business, civic, and cultural leaders to urge Congress to take action on immigration reform. Today's Seattle Day of Action event coincides with the release of a new research, including data on the foreign-born population in Washington, their tax contributions, their spending power, and their role in Washington's key industries as leaders and job creators. Today, NAE is also launching a new mobile tool that lets users make a video telling their Reason for Reform. Videos will be sent directly to Congress. Check out the tool at   

"We have advocated for comprehensive immigration reform for years because it would address a shortage of  skilled labor in a range of industries as well as increase wages and buying power throughout our state-all of which will strengthen our communities" said Maud Daudon, president and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.  "We encourage members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to collaborate on immediate, workable solutions that will improve our immigration system.  This study highlights the benefits of doing so and it's clear across economic, political and industry sectors that this issue must be addressed," Daudon continued.

The Contributions of New Americans in Washington shows that immigrants make up 13.2 percent of the state's population and contributed $8.1 billion in taxes, or 14.4 percent of the total share in 2014. That same year, immigrants earned $30.9 billion, or about 14 percent of all earnings in the state. 

Immigrants in Washington contribute to key industries such as computer systems design, agriculture, and tourism. They make up nearly 18 percent of all entrepreneurs in the state, and play a large role in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, a major component of U.S. economic growth. These and other key statistics on immigrants in Washington can be found in the NAE report here: The Contributions of New Americans in Washington 

"Immigration reform is critical for the agriculture sector.  As this study indicates agriculture in Washington is a growing sector, and desperately needs seasonal labor.  We cannot allow an insufficient immigration system to limit the ability of Washington growers to harvest their crops.  We need Congress to act" said Mike Gempler, Executive Director, the Washington Growers League.  

The Reason for Reform campaign is launching in all 50 states today to urge Congress to take action on immigration reform. More information can be found at


About the Partnership for a New American Economy 

The Partnership for a New American Economy brings together more than 500 Republican, Democratic and Independent mayors and business leaders who support immigration reforms that will help create jobs for Americans today. The Partnership's members include mayors of more than 35 million people nationwide and business leaders of companies that generate more than $1.5 trillion and employ more than 4 million people across all sectors of the economy, from Agriculture to Aerospace, Hospitality to High Tech and Media to Manufacturing. Partnership members understand that immigration is essential to maintaining the productive, diverse and flexible workforce that America needs to ensure prosperity over the coming generations. Learn more at

May 14, 2015

Posted on Roll Call (

Will GOP Let Clinton Capture Latino Vote?

by Morton Kondracke

A plan is circulating on Capitol Hill and among immigrant advocate groups to give Republicans in Congress the chance to get something constructive done this year on the fractious issue — and perhaps undercut Hillary Rodham Clinton’s shrewd (and cynical) effort to lock down the Hispanic vote in 2016.

The plan is the work of Rick Swartz, founder of the National Immigration Forum and longstanding campaigner for left-right policy solutions on environmental, trade, tax and agricultural issues. He’s advocating — not for the first time — that Congress pass a “small bill” solving part of America’s immigration problem, recognizing that comprehensive reform has zero chance of enactment anytime soon.

His proposal would give legal status and a path to citizenship to 1 to 1.3 million young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children (so-called DREAMers) and an equal number of agricultural workers. It would also give green cards to about 700,000 high-skilled foreign workers and foreign students getting university degrees in the U.S. and shorten the waiting time (now, often decades) for 3 million legal immigration applicants to get to the U.S.

All the elements have been the subject of legislation in past Congresses, but have been stymied by partisan politics — Democrats’ refusal to consider anything but comprehensive reform covering most or all of the 11 million illegals in the U.S., and Republicans’ unwillingness to countenance anything that could be branded as “amnesty” by the party’s right-wing.

Swartz’s plan, which he says has attracted interest from pro-reform Republicans and Democratic sponsors of past DREAM and AgJobs legislation, plus some pro-immigrant groups, has the virtue of having at least a chance of passing Congress.

Comprehensive reform of the kind advocated last week by Clinton does not have much of a chance as long as Republicans dominate Congress. And she has to know it, which is why her move was cynical — as well as politically very shrewd.

The agenda she laid out in Nevada last week satisfies every item on the wish list of immigrant rights activists. She said immigration reform would be a top priority if she’s elected and she’d fight to pass a comprehensive bill with a path to citizenship for most undocumented residents, especially DREAMers.

She promised she’d extend President Barack Obama’s executive orders to protect 5.6 million illegals from deportation for three years and offer them work permits. And, if Congress didn’t enact comprehensive reform, she promised to go even farther than Obama has with executive action, deferring deportation of the parents of so-called DREAMers.

“We can’t wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship,” she said, sticking it to the GOP. “Now this is where I differ from everybody on the Republican side. Make no mistake: today not a single Republican candidate announced or potential is clearly or consistently supporting a path to citizenship – not one.”

“When they talk about ‘legal status,’ that is code for second-class status,” she said, evidently referring to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, probably the most immigration-friendly of all the GOP candidates, who has backed off his previous advocacy of citizenship under criticism from right-wingers.

Clinton’s move was shrewd as a play to capture support from an expected 17 million Hispanics registered to vote in 2016, a projected 13 percent of the electorate, up from 10 percent in 2012.

Last month, GOP pollster Whit Ayers, who’s working for presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, said his party’s nominee needs to capture 40 percent of the Hispanic vote to win the election. In 2012, Mitt Romney got only 25 percent and in 2008, John McCain got 31 percent of Latino votes.

Clinton’s move was cynical in promising what she must know she can’t deliver. Comprehensive reform plans have been introduced in Congress repeatedly since the last one was enacted in 1986 and they have all failed. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill in 2013, but it was blocked in the House. And as long as Republicans run Congress, broad bills will continue to be blocked.

By holding out for comprehensive-or-nothing legislation, Democrats have successfully painted Republicans as anti-immigrant and have won favor with Hispanic voters. But they’ve accomplished nothing.

If Congress failed to act in 2017, Clinton promised as president that she would make immigration law by executive order even more than Obama already has tried to do. That’s cynical, too. Obama’s orders have been enjoined by a federal judge in Texas and could be tied up in the courts through his presidency.

Hers would be challenged on constitutional grounds, too, at least delaying any action on immigration.

It’s likely that Obama, having promised Hispanics in 2008 he’d reform immigration policy, will accomplish precisely nothing in eight years. How the Supreme Court ultimately will rule on his (or Clinton’s) executive orders is anybody’s guess.
If Clinton were seriously interested in making progress, she’d promise to work with Members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, to enact as much immigration reform as possible. Instead, she’s playing politics, hoping to win massive Latino support and make Republicans look bad.

And Republicans do look bad. Party leaders promise incremental reform, but they persistently allow anti-reform conservatives block any action.

As a matter of institutional pride and responsibility, Congress shouldn’t be allowing the Executive Branch and the courts make immigration law. Everyone says the immigration system is “broken.” It’s Congress’s job to fix it. Moreover, as a matter of political survival, Republicans should stop alienating the nation’s fastest-growing demographic group.

Swartz’s plan offers a roadmap out of this mire—a chance for Congress to at least partially solve the immigration mess. Republicans could say they’ve accomplished more than Obama ever has. Democrats would be put on the spot: would they oppose some progress on immigration because it doesn’t accomplish everything they want?

If an incremental bill actually passed Congress, pro-reform Republicans would have triumphed over right-wing nativists in their party. That would demonstrate that the GOP is not anti-Hispanic. It would help DREAMERs, agricultural workers and high-tech industries. The US would stop educating foreign students, then forcing them to leave once they graduate. The families of those waiting in legal immigration lines would be re-united.

And partial solutions this year might lead to more comprehensive ones later.

March 2, 2015

From the Washington Growers League

Contact your Congressional Representative to
oppose mandatory E-Verify

On Tuesday, March 3, 2015, the House Judiciary Committee plans to mark-up legislation that includes mandatory E-Verify

Please contact your Congressional Representative to urge them not to support HB 1147.

For an overview of the issue, please see the information below, prepared by the National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE). 

On Tuesday, March 3, 2015, the House Judiciary Committee plans to mark-up legislation that includes mandatory E-Verify.

The Legal Workforce Act (HR 1147) would mandate the use of the E-Verify system by employers to confirm the legal status of prospective employees. We were told there is no opportunity to move any legislation that addresses agriculture’s workforce situation until after border security and enforcement legislation passes.

The E-Verify legislation is deeply problematic for our industry if it passes without a solution that addresses our current agricultural workforce and creates a new guest worker program to meet future needs. Without the opportunity to fix agriculture’s workforce crisis, we are forced to actively oppose this mandatory E-Verify legislation.

The bill includes a 24-month phase-in for the agriculture industry. However, without first addressing agriculture’s labor crisis with a solution for our current workforce and a redesigned guest worker visa program for future needs, no amount of time is adequate.

There have also been discussions of exempting agriculture from this legislation. This is not something we can advocate for because such an exemption would be very detrimental to the agriculture industry. We must have a solution for our current workforce needs that would allow us to participate in an E-Verify program in the future. Our goal has never been to get an exemption but to achieve a solution for our workforce. Moreover, such an exemption would make agriculture an even greater target for enforcement measures.

We ask that agricultural organizations join us in opposition to the bill. It is incredibly important to weigh in with your members of Congress that providing agriculture with a solution must come before any mandatory E-Verify system is put in place. Talking points are copied below for your reference.

We encourage you to contact your members of Congress, in particular members on the House Judiciary Committee, and let them know you oppose mandatory E-Verify void of a solution for agriculture. This is an all-hands-on-deck situation. If this bill passed it would be devastating to the industry.

**Agriculture opposes mandatory E-Verify legislation without a solution that addresses our current agricultural workforce and creates a new guest worker program to meet future needs.

**An enforcement-only or enforcement without reforming our broader immigration system approach will have a devastating impact on rural economies across America.

**Based on a farm labor study conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) in 2014, the impact of an enforcement-only approach to immigration that causes agriculture to lose access to its workforce would result in agricultural output falling by $30 to $60 billion.

**Agriculture wants a solution for our current workforce and a redesigned guest worker visa program for future needs that will serve all U.S. producers, NOT an exemption from mandatory E-Verify.

**Without first addressing agriculture’s labor crisis with a solution that meets agriculture’s workforce needs, no amount of phase-in time is adequate for our industry.

Thanks to the Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC) for cooperation in drafting this action call.

July 4, 2014

From the Washington Growers League

President Obama announces plans to act
on immigration reform

On June 30th, just over a year from the day that the U.S. Senate passed their comprehensive immigration reform bill, S. 744, President Obama announced he would take administrative actions under his executive power to the extent allowable by law to address immigration issues. The announcement was expected, as the President had previously announced he would give Congress a year from passage of the Senate bill to pass an immigration bill. The House failed to pass any immigration-related bill, although several did pass out of committee.

The President stated that by the end of the summer he would take recommendations from the Attorney General and Department of Homeland Security on steps that can legally be taken within the limits of executive power. There is an ongoing fight over the limits of presidential executive power, so we anticipate challenges to the President’s proposals. The President did state he would immediately begin moving enforcement resources from the interior to the borders.

Generally, the agriculture industry would benefit from any administrative action that reduces interior enforcement, allows undocumented persons more time or an easier process to gain legal status, or defers deportation actions against people who may be employed in agriculture.

At a July 1 news conference held at a Yakima Valley orchard owned by Growers League member Gilbert Orchards, U.S. Senator Patty Murray spoke of the need to pass immigration reform legislation and spoke in favor of taking administrative actions to ease the pressure on agricultural employers and people caught in the dysfunction of the immigration system.

Gilbert Orchards General Manager Sean Gilbert and WGL Executive Director Mike Gempler also spoke at the news conference, which was held to support the continued push for a legislative reform package in Congress.

An executive order from the President will not fix the many problems with our immigration system. It might provide limited relief in some ways for the short term, but it would not be the long-term solution our industry and country needs. As the National Immigration Forum points out: “The only sustainable solution is legislative action. Only Congress can create new visas for the skilled and agricultural workers that our economy needs. Only Congress can provide for the timely reunification of long-separated families. And only Congress can establish a system under which undocumented immigrants can make themselves right with the law and begin to earn legal status.”

The underlying necessity for reform remains unchanged. We are profoundly disappointed that there has been no action over the past year, and WGL will continue to work for passage of a reform bill along with the many other agriculture organizations that have made this their top priority.

In the meantime we want the federal government to enforce the law in a way that is respectful of perishable crop labor needs, as well as family unity, while still maintaining a high level of national security.

March 12, 2014

Posted on Roll Call (

White House, Democrats Cry Foul Over GOP Push to Enforce Immigration, Other Laws

by Emma Dumain

A House Republican bill aimed at forcing President Barack Obama to enforce immigration and other laws as they are written drew sharp rebukes Wednesday from the White House and House Democrats, who ripped the measure as anti-immigrant.

The legal dispute over President Barack Obama's unilateral decision to suspend deportations for people brought to the country illegally by their parents, known as "dreamers," has split the GOP and Democrats before.

But on Wednesday the dispute threatened to end any lingering goodwill Democrats were inclined to extend toward GOP leaders, who just weeks earlier unveiled a set of immigration principles for overhauling the nation's broken system - and then said Obama needed to earn back the GOP's trust that he would enforce the law.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney weighed in from the podium, where he spoke of House leaders' interest in an immigration overhaul in the past tense.

Carney said the GOP's legislation "runs contrary to our most deeply held values as Americans and asks law enforcement officials to treat these 'dreamers' the same way as they would treat those with criminal records. ...

"You hear a lot of talk about where people are on this issue. It doesn't require much to look at what House Republicans are doing today to question whether or not they're serious about moving forward on comprehensive immigration reform," he said.

But GOP leaders said Congress needs to act to curb what they consider to be Obama's abuse of power on a broad scale.

"His administration's blatant disregard for the rule of law has not been limited to just a few instances," Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said on the House floor. "From gutting welfare reform and No Child Left Behind requirements to refusing to enforce immigration and drug laws, the president's dangerous expansion of powers appears to be endless. Whether one believes in the merit of the end goal or not, this is not how the executive branch was intended by our founders to act."

The House passed a bill 233-181 on Wednesday that would authorize the House or the Senate to bring a civil lawsuit against the White House for executive overreach.

"The president doesn't get to decide which laws he's going to enforce any more than Americans get to decide which laws they're going to follow," Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. "The fact that the president would threaten to veto a measure requiring him to uphold his Constitutional obligations underscores why this bill is needed, and why Senate Democrats should pass it immediately."

On Thursday, the chamber will vote on an additional measure forcing federal officials to justify to Congress each time they opt not to enforce certain laws.

Democrats backing an immigration overhaul were livid.

"I want to read to you from the Republican principles on immigration," said Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez, D-Ill., during floor debate on Wednesday. "This is what your caucus put forward. 'One of the greatest founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistake of their parents. It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residents of citizenship for those brought to this country as children through no fault of their own and no other place.' Yet today you want to take away that very ability from the president of the United States."

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who like Gutierrez has been a leading voice in pushing for a comprehensive immigration overhaul, also weighed in.

"We have had one vote on immigration here in Congress. It was on Congressman King's bill to deport the Dream Act kids," said Lofgren on the Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, amendment that the House passed last year to override Obama's executive action to defer the deportations of dreamers.

Lofgren also wondered why the House had not yet seen legislation reportedly in the works from Cantor and Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., tentatively titled the Kids Act, that would help dreamers avoid being penalized for being in the country illegally through no fault of their own.

"We've heard a lot of discussion about a bill supposedly that's going to be brought forward by the majority about the innocent children who've been brought here," she said, "but we haven't seen a bill. Instead, we see these bills."

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

Feb 25, 2014

Posted on Roll Call (

Few Willing to Publicly Back
GOP Leaders' Immigration Principles

by Matt Fuller

While Speaker John A. Boehner says his conference "by and large" backs the immigration outline the leadership presented in January at the GOP retreat, a poll of every House Republican conducted by CQ Roll Call found only 19 who would confirm their support.

We surveyed Republican lawmakers' offices and combed through member statements to see if they supported the immigration principles, which include a pathway to legalization for illegal immigrants and a pathway to citizenship for children brought here illegally. The tally found 19 backing leadership's standards, two more who said "possibly yes," 30 Republicans openly opposing the principles, 22 who refused to say and 25 who were undecided. Three others had nuanced responses. The other 131 did not respond to calls or emails over a two-week period.

Given the number of Republicans who declined to answer or wouldn't give a binary response, it's possible Republicans see support for the broadly worded principles as a proxy for supporting an immigration overhaul this year. But with such a seeming dearth of support, the likelihood Republicans could move legislation - in this Congress or the next - seems bleak.

Boehner and GOP leadership have already put an immigration overhaul on ice for now, blaming a lack of trust in President Barack Obama within the conference. But the threshold question remains: Are Republicans willing to support any broad immigration legislation along the lines of what GOP leadership laid out?

Most lawmakers contacted by CQ Roll Call simply aren't ready to answer.

The principles are not legislation, and because there is no set of bills codifying them, many Republicans declined to answer before leadership presents actual legislative text. And that's not expected any time soon.

A common refrain from Republicans was opposition to "amnesty," but how that politically toxic word in GOP circles is defined remains an essential question.

Supporters of the principles say they are not equivalent to amnesty - people here illegally would pay fines and back taxes, among other provisions. And under the House principles, those people would not have a "special" path to citizenship. But many immigration opponents charge that anything short of enforcing existing laws and requiring illegal immigrants to leave the country is amnesty - and that's a talking point that seems to have sticking power with the GOP.

"Amnesty by any other name is still amnesty," Texas Rep. Michael C. Burgess said in a statement.

"I will oppose any policy that allows individuals who have cheated the system and entered the country illegally to gain citizenship ahead of those who have put in the time and effort to follow the appropriate process," North Carolina Rep. Walter B. Jones told CQ Roll Call in a statement.

What our poll seemed to confirm was what reporters have heard from Republicans repeatedly: There are vocal minorities in the GOP on both sides of the immigration issue. In the middle is a large group of Republicans who could be swayed either way. But many of those same Republicans believe Obama can't be trusted to implement an immigration overhaul.

Still, such a lackluster response from Republicans undermines Boehner's contention that a majority of his conference supports the immigration principles, which were written in a broad fashion so as to attract the most support possible.

There is a silver lining for people who want to see a broad measure passed - there are enough GOP votes to pass legislation, as long as almost every Democrat stays in the "yes" column. It's a tactic Boehner used to pass a clean debt ceiling hike, but he swears to his conference he has no interest in doing immigration in the same manner.

Presented with the CQ Roll Call vote tally, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said that what Boehner said remains the same: "House Republicans by and large support the immigration principles, but members - and the American people - simply don't trust that the Obama administration will implement any part of immigration reform it doesn't like or support." Until that changes, "it is going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation," Steel said.

For now, Republicans appear to have found cover by blaming Obama. But Democrats are already crying foul.

"House Democrats have been ready for months with a bipartisan proposal, and the time for fictional excuses is over," Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told CQ Roll Call in a statement.

A swath of Republicans said the principles and the immigration issue on the whole were "too complicated for a simple yes or no," as Georgia Rep. Rob Woodall's press secretary told CQ Roll Call.

But, as Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia said - and as Boehner has repeatedly affirmed - Republicans are only going to take up an immigration overhaul that is supported by a majority of House Republicans.

"The immigration standards document remains a work in progress and is meant to help the Leadership ascertain what the strong majority of House Republicans are willing to support," Goodlatte said in a statement.

"It was good for members to have the opportunity to have a healthy discussion about this issue," Goodlatte said.

Goodlatte, notably, didn't give a yes or no answer on whether he supports leadership's principles.
And as our tally suggests, leadership has a lot more work to do.

The tally was conducted by Fuller and CQ Roll Call staffers Abby Livingston, Alex Lazar, Christina Bellantoni, Chris Nehls, David Michaels, Daniel Newhauser, Emma Dumain, Eric Naing, Hannah Hess, Jay Hunter, Katey McGettrick, Nell Benton, Steven T. Dennis and Warren Rojas. Additional research by intern Bridget Bowman.

Nov. 13, 2013

Published in the Wenatchee World

Immigration reform, now

by By Dale Foreman and Rich Stolz

Now that the government shutdown has ended and political brinksmanship has taken its course, the question we and other Americans are asking is what, if anything, did Congress learn? We hope that this Congress, especially the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, finally understands that governance and policy making can’t happen at the extremes. It’s time for congressional leaders to demonstrate that they can get things done and to prove that they can solve the problems facing our nation, instead of creating new ones.

Fortunately, there are voices in both parties already lining up behind finally passing comprehensive immigration reform. More than 180 Democrats have signed on to a bill in the House similar to one the Senate passed with strong bipartisan support earlier this summer. Republican representatives, including Rep. Dave Reichert, have argued for passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year. There are few issues remaining in Congress that can demonstrate this level of bipartisan support.

Earlier this month Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who serves as chair of the House Republican Conference, told Univision news, “I believe that we have a window here between now and the end of the year and that (immigration reform) is a priority. And the speaker has also said it is his goal, his priority to bring immigration reform to the floor.”

Our nation — and Washington state — can’t afford for Congress to fail on this issue yet again. According to a recent study released by a coalition of small businesses in Washington state, each month of delay on immigration reform costs our state more than 833 jobs and over $78 million in lost economic activity. Washington’s orchardists and farmers are doing their best amid tremendous uncertainty and continuing worker shortages to harvest their crops. Our high tech industry is in a global competition struggling to attract innovative talent to our region even as Canadian marketing firms are posting billboards and ads boasting over how much simpler it can be for would-be immigrants to immigrate to our competition. And every day that goes by without a bill is a day when more than 1,000 immigrants in the United States are deported bringing grief and turmoil and chaos into the lives of workers, residents and their families, many of whom have lived in our communities for years and our part of the community.

Some may argue that trying to pass immigration reform now will be foolhardy, especially after the partisan rancor of the government shut down. On the contrary, this is the best time to do it. This is a problem that must be solved now, there is broad bipartisan support for reform, and Congress must prove they can do something right. A recent poll of Washington residents found that more than three quarters of respondents supported passing comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, and that included an overwhelming percentage of Republicans.

Let’s not let this opportunity pass us by. Last month every one of our state’s representatives voted to end the government shutdown. With comprehensive immigration reform once again on the horizon, let’s hope they will stand together once again for the good of Washington state. We should be able to expect our leaders to put the good of the country and our economy first.

Dale Foreman is past chairman of the Washington Apple Commission, former majority leader of the Washington House of Representatives and former state GOP chairman. Rich Stolz is executive director, OneAmerica, Washington’s largest immigrant advocacy organization.

October 30, 2013

Posted on the Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform website (

More Than 600 Conservative Leaders to Congress: 
We Need Immigration Reform Now

Evangelical, Law Enforcement, Business Leaders Join Forces,
Amplify Their Consensus

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In an unprecedented gathering, more than 600 conservative leaders from close to 40 states delivered a clear call to members of Congress on Wednesday, especially Republicans: The House should vote on broad immigration reform this year. 

In more than 170 meetings, this wide-ranging coalition of Bibles, Badges and Business leaders talked about the urgent need for reform for the sake of our nation’s economy, security and moral integrity. Sharing personal stories, they encouraged lawmakers to seek votes for reform on the House floor this year. Members of Congress themselves participated in more than 100 meetings.

Support also spread on social media, including more than 10,000 tweets so far this week at #Ready4Reform, an effort that will continue as the House of Representatives decides how to proceed in coming days and weeks.

“The time is now for immigration reform — but don’t take my word for it. On Wednesday, more than 600 constituents told their Republican lawmakers that our broken immigration system is indefensible and reform is urgent,” said Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum.

“Immigration reform can grow the economy, uphold biblical values and honor the rule of law. Republican members of Congress can take great encouragement in hearing that message from their conservative base. They can move forward knowing that they have unprecedented support from all corners.”

Wednesday’s meetings all were part of “Americans for Reform: Immigration Reform for our Economy, Faith and Security.” In addition to the Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform network, hosts included the Partnership for a New American Economy, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

August 15, 2013

Posted on Washington State Wire (

Federation, Growers League Make Washington-State Case for Immigration Reform

Part of National Effort to Soften Republican Votes in Congress

by Erik Smith

Think of it as the kind of issue Congress can’t leave behind, no matter how much it might want. In the midst of the August recess, as lawmakers are back on their home turf, the Washington Federation of State Employees and the Washington Growers League are making a Washington-state case for a federal immigration-reform bill. They point out that it would add $1.3 billion in tax revenue for the state over the next 10 years – not to mention all of the other reasons that are being argued at the national level.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, officials of the business and labor organizations argued that the measure, passed by the Senate in June, would make it easier for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants to obtain citizenship – and thus begin generating the tax revenue to bolster Social Security, Medicare and other national programs. Of greatest interest at the Olympian level might be that it also would generate a significant amount of money for state coffers. Citing estimates from a report produced by the American Center for Progress, they said legal status for Washington’s immigrant population would add $21.3 billion to the gross Washington product over a decade, add 3,083 jobs and provide a $12.5 billion increase in the earnings of Washington residents over the next decade.

“I don’t have to tell any of you how important this revenue would be to schools, health care, infrastructure and all the other services that our state and local governments provide,” said Sue Henrickson, vice president of the Federation, the state’s largest public-employee union. More money for state services, of course, translates to union jobs.

And so a national argument, the center of a storm in Congress, touches down in Washington state, ever so briefly, during the five-week break in business in the other Washington. U.S. House members, particularly on the Republican side, are being lobbied hard by immigration-reform advocates, labor and other interests. So far one Republican member of the Washington delegation, Dave Reichert, has declared his support for the measure. Senate Bill 744 would ease hurdles for immigrants currently settled in the United States without legal status to make application while in this country.

The measure passed the U.S. Senate June 27 by a vote of 68-32, but it is mired in the House for reasons that ought to sound mighty familiar to any follower of the Washington Legislature. It appears a majority of votes are available to pass the bill – perhaps 200 Democrats and at least 23 Republicans, according to a tally maintained by America’s Voice, an immigration-reform organization. It takes 218 votes to pass a bill. But in the Republican-controlled U.S. House, GOP leaders say they won’t consider the bill unless a majority of their members assent.

Growers League Backs Bill

Perhaps most interesting, politics-wise, is that the Washington Growers League, an influential Eastern Washington agribusiness association, is marching shoulder-to-shoulder with the Federation on immigration. One might remember the organization’s battles two decades ago with the United Farm Workers over government-mandated health benefits for farmworkers. But Gempler said immigration reform is a common cause. “The agricultural industry is reliant on immigrant labor – I don’t think that is any big secret. And we are very eager to have a legal and stable workforce and to see that people that have been working in our industry enjoy the full rights of citizenship.

“The economic burden to our state and country is really magnified in the agricultural industry. We have one of the largest labor-intensive agricultural industries in our country here in Washington state. Tree fruit and vegetables, berries and flowers and other specialty crops are really a very thriving and large part of our economy. So the extent to which immigration reform helps stabilize our industry will pay tremendous benefits to our state as a whole.

Legal status will allow those who have settled in Washington state to fully participate in their communities and society – and get them paying their full share of the tax burden. Unsuccessful reform proposals of the last 10 years have all required employers to use E-Verify, a voluntary system that allows employers to check immigration status that employees provide on I-9 forms. “Right now anybody who wants to sneak into the United State and has a couple hundred bucks can buy documents and get a job, and that lack of control isn’t helpful to anybody,” Gempler said. “I think people are underestimating the impact that mandatory use of e-Verify at the time of hire will have on the economic magnet that exists in the United States for people in other countries. It will be a more controlled situation, and a more fair situation, one in which we welcome people to our country in a more controlled manner that really reflects economic and immigration realities. So no, it shouldn’t stop – it should be done better.”

Social Security Impact

Advocates said legal status would bolster Social Security and Medicare programs, now supported by an aging population of U.S.-born citizens. They noted that the immigrant population is typically younger, meaning an influx of taxpayers who might buttress the system. Social Security actuaries have estimated the Senate measure would extend the solvency of the Social Security program by two years, to 2035, and that legalized immigrants would add $1.2 trillion over the next 36 years. “That is ‘trillion’ with a ‘T,’” said Gwen Grant, president of the Seattle-area chapter of the Retired Public Employees Council of Washington. The contributions would be sufficient to support 2.4 million American retirees over the next 36 years.

Amy Biviano of the Main Street Alliance, a progressive small-business lobbying organization, pointed to the money that might be generated for state services, thorough sales, business and occupations and sales taxes. “That would benefit our state in terms of our education, our police power, all the vital services that our citizens need, and when we bring more people into our tax system, we ease the burden on small business owners.”

Efforts here are being trained on the state’s four Republican members of Congress – local rallies, letter-writing and email efforts, statements at town hall meetings and so on. Reichert, of East King County, is the only member to declare support for the Senate bill. In the Tri-Cities, Congressman Richard “Doc” Hastings has said he is optimistic that perhaps a less comprehensive bill might pass the House; in the Spokane area, Cathy McMorris Rodgers has expressed “openness to the conversation,” and in Vancouver, Jaime Herrera Beutler has laid out the central misgiving about the reform effort. Her press secretary, Casey Bowman, last month told her hometown newspaper, The Columbian, that 3rd District residents “want our laws to matter.” House members are working on their own plan, but since GOP leaders have made it clear the Senate bill is dead on arrival, he said the congresswoman has placed her focus there, “rather than analyze hundreds of pages of legislation that will never come before her for a vote.”

August 6, 2013

Published in the Equal Voice

Wash. Group: Immigration Will 'Trigger' Economic Growth
If the Senate immigration reform bill becomes law, the United States - and Washington state - could see billions of dollars in economic gains and new productivity, according to a Washington state group made up of business, immigration, faith and law enforcement organizations.

The umbrella group, known as the Washington Compact, released a study, "Immigration Reform: Towards a Stronger Washington," on Friday with a forecast that the state's economic productivity could grow by more than $21 billion and that there would be more jobs.

"Contrary to longstanding arguments against immigration, new immigration creates jobs in periods of both growth and recession," the group said in its study.

"In the short-term, an economy in recession experiences a small negative impact on job numbers through a period of adjustment (one to two years); however, new immigrants increase an economy's size and productivity in the long-term (four to seven years)."

The Washington Compact cited the Migration Policy Institute for that observation and maintains that the country's economy could soar by $832 billion over 10 years under the Senate bill.

"Our economy is being stifled, in part, because of a climate where undocumented immigrants work in the shadows," the group said in its study.

In May, though, the Heritage Foundation unveiled a report that says the Senate immigration bill would bring a net price tag of $6.3 trillion for the next five decades. The money, the think tank said, would go to pay for benefits for the millions of people who are in the country and lack documents.

As The Associated Press reported, elected officials and analysts criticized the report, which has the support of groups that want lower taxes.

The Congressional Budget Office, which is nonpartisan, found that the U.S. economy would grow under the Senate immigration reform bill and that the federal deficit would drop by about $175 billion after the first 10 years, according to ABC News.

In its study, the Washington Compact talked about immigrants with different backgrounds.
In Washington state, Microsoft, Boeing, the University of Washington, Google, Sun Microsystems and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center rely on high-skilled, foreign-born workers, according to the group.

"These employees bring valuable knowledge and skills to U.S. companies, helping them compete in a global market," the group said.

"...Many undocumented immigrants fill low-paying low-skilled positions, whereas legal workers who do not fear apprehension or deportation can work in more suitable and productive occupations."

The Washington Compact supporters include: Association of Washington Business, OneAmerica, Washington Growers League, Church Council of Greater Seattle, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Chris Vance, a former Washington state Republican chairman.

While the Senate has approved its immigration bill, lawmakers in the U.S. House have yet to vote on the topic. Instead of considering one immigration bill, lawmakers in the House are considering several pieces of legislation that address the topic.

July 9, 2013

Published in the Wall Street Journal

House Republicans and Immigration

The GOP choice: A party of opportunity or closed borders?

Today the 234 House Republicans will meet behind closed doors in a therapy session that could decide the fate of immigration reform. This will be raucous and maybe enlightening. The GOP is splintered and confused on immigration, and this has left the party with no coherent or winning message. Too often Americans hear the shrillest anti-immigration Republicans whose only argument is "secure the border," as if that is a sensible policy for the 21st century.

House Speaker John Boehner's job is to make sure those voices don't carry the day. He and his colleagues face a fundamental choice: kill immigration reform, or try to pass constructive and pro-growth measures that have broad public and business support, including from millions of conservatives.

The first option would be a policy blunder and perhaps a political disaster. The Republican-led House has tried to sell itself as a party of solutions. To fail to fix any part of an immigration system that everyone agrees is contrary to U.S. economic interests, and after the Senate has passed a bipartisan reform, would play into Democratic charges that House Republicans are mere obstructionists.

Nearly as unproductive would be merely to pass another border-security bill as the GOP did in 2006. That would allow the legal immigration system to grow more unworkable by the day. Surely there is a Republican agenda beyond militarizing the border and turning ICE into the Republican version of OSHA and EPA that criminalizes employers who create jobs.

The good news is that there is. Even if the House doesn't want to take up the entire bill that recently passed the Senate, it can still consider and pass the parts that are pro-growth and that most Republicans support.

These include a provision to allow foreign graduates of U.S. schools with science, math and technology degrees to stay in America if they have a job offer. Even Mitt Romney supported this one. Another provision would double the number of H-1B visas for skilled immigrants, while a third would allow visas to those who will start businesses and invest in America. These reforms are vital to U.S. economic leadership, and a party that opposes them looks blinkered and backward.

Republicans should also vote to codify the Dream Act, which would allow some two million immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children to become legal residents and eventually citizens. President Obama has issued an executive order toward this goal, but Republicans can make it permanent and get some credit for a policy that is the essence of compassionate conservatism.

If Republicans insist on passing more border-security measures, then House fiscal hawks should at least cut out the $30 billion of waste in the Senate bill. This could be strategically paired with guest-worker programs for agriculture and other workers, as well as speeding up green cards for those who have been waiting lawfully in line for years to become Americans.

History proves without question that the best way to reduce illegal immigration is by opening more paths for legal immigrants to meet U.S. labor demand. Border security alone won't work. Almost all Republicans in the House insist they support legal immigration. It's time to prove that with some votes.

House GOP leaders say they aren't sure they have the votes to pass these measures. They thus may need Democratic votes, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi may command her troops to vote no on anything but the Senate bill. Let them. If Silicon Valley Democrats want to vote against high-tech visas, that's their choice. If the Hispanic caucus wants to vote down the Dream Act and more farm workers, then so be it. Democrats can then take responsibility if these measures fail.

Republicans should also be willing to debate and vote on the issue of legalizing 11 million illegal immigrants. We support this path to citizenship, and many House Republicans also claim to support it eventually, someday, just not as in the Senate bill. Mr. Boehner should challenge his Members to come up with the terms they would support, because the alternative is "self-deportation" that isn't going to happen.

The dumbest strategy is to follow the Steve King anti-immigration caucus and simply let the Senate bill die while further militarizing the border. This may please the loudest voices on talk radio, but it ignores the millions of evangelical Christians, Catholic conservatives, business owners and free-marketers who support reform. The GOP can support a true conservative opportunity society or become a party of closed minds and borders.

A version of this article appeared July 10, 2013, on page A12 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: House Republicans and Immigration.

July 3, 2013

Published in the Wall Street Journal

A Pro-Growth Reform

The GOP House should improve the Senate immigration bill, not kill it.

Any legislation that runs 1,200 pages is almost by definition flawed, and the immigration reform that passed the Senate late last week is no exception. The bill would nonetheless improve America's ability to legally attract more of the world's human talent, and the Republican-run House now has a chance to make it better.

This is not our preferred reform, which would focus entirely on easing the way for more people to come legally. Immigrants flock to the U.S. mainly for economic opportunity, and that incentive can't be stopped by a border fence or more harassment of businesses. The Senate's enforcement provisions are an example of wretched excess, a case of the Republican Party letting its blood-and-soil wing trump its supposedly free-market principles.

Even if the border is militarized to the point that no Mexican can get through, immigrants will find other ways to enter. An estimated 40% of current illegals are here because they overstayed their legal visas, and that share is bound to rise as the Border Patrol doubles to 38,400 under the Senate bill.

Protestors call for immigration reform in front of the Illinois GOP headquarters on Thursday.

The Senate's answer is to mandate an E-Verify program for all employers to vet new workers, and to further criminalize employers who hire illegals. Employers are willing to go along with this because the status quo of ICE raids and worker shortages is often worse.

But it's certainly a spectacle to see Republicans who claim to be champions of business insisting that the act of hiring a willing worker who turns out to be illegal ought to be punished like a felony. Like every government program, E-Verify has also had a flawed rollout with many false IDs. The bill would be better without all of this enforcement overkill.


The good news is that this waste is offset by the new and expanded avenues the bill creates for legal entry into the U.S. These include an uncapped number of green cards for graduates of U.S. schools in science, engineering and technology who have a job offer. So if you are a Stanford biologist with an offer from Genentech, you don't have to return to Bangalore or London and start your own company there. This will help keep the U.S. at the leading edge of technology and world competitiveness.

The Senate bill also moves the U.S. somewhat toward a more skills-based immigration system than the current focus on family reunification. Siblings of U.S. citizens will no longer get legal preference and neither will married children above age 30. Country quotas that failed to account for population or education are also lifted.

Instead the bill creates more guest-worker visas to fill shortages in the U.S. economy. The new farm-worker program is a particular improvement over the current mess, allowing a largely bureaucratic-free process up to 112,333 visas a year with a cap for the first five years of 337,000. That annual quota is still far too low given the extensive needs of U.S. growers, but this is where the House could make the bill better.

The status quo without reform will mean more labor shortages that force American farmers to stop growing some crops or move even more production overseas. The same Republicans and union Democrats who cry "sovereignty" to oppose immigration don't seem to mind if their policies result in more imported food.

The annual visa quota for skilled H-1B workers increases to 120,000 at first (and as much as 180,000) from 65,000, though here again the limit is still too low and too encumbered by Department of Labor discretion. The same goes for the new guest-worker program for unskilled, nonfarm workers, which starts at a ridiculous 20,000 visas, rising to 75,000 after four years to a cap of 200,000. The nationwide quota for construction is 15,000 and can't grow.

Raising these visa quotas, and stripping away the Labor Department's increased power to set wages and complicate business hiring are areas where the House GOP could improve reform. This would also be the best immigration enforcement policy because more legal ways to enter the U.S. and work means less incentive to come illegally. It's a lot cheaper for taxpayers than spending $40 billion to militarize the border.

Which brings us to the "path to citizenship" for the estimated 11 million illegal residents already living in the U.S. Conservatives are again calling this "amnesty," though the bill requires that illegal residents pay fines of $2,000 and wait at least 13 years before they can become citizens, and bars them from welfare or ObamaCare as they wait.

The question restrictionists don't like to answer is what is their alternative? As Florida Republican Marco Rubio says, current law is itself a form of amnesty because no one thinks those already here will leave or be deported.

Some on the right continue to indulge the Mitt Romney fantasy that if the government raids enough businesses, illegals will "self-deport" for lack of opportunity. But if those workers haven't gone home during the last five years of recession and slow growth, they aren't likely to in the future. Meanwhile, legalization would make it easier for those workers to change jobs and thus help the economy by better matching skills with opportunities.


The House GOP plans to take up the elements of the Senate effort as separate bills, which is fair enough. Pessimists say it won't pass, and we'll take up the political objections another day. But the reason to support immigration reform is less about political advantage than because it is good for the country. It is by far the most pro-growth policy of the Obama era, and especially in this Presidency a growth opportunity is a terrible thing to waste.

A version of this article appeared July 3, 2013, on page A14 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: A Pro-Growth Reform.

July 1, 2013

Published in the Wall Street Journal

A Republican Case for Immigration Reform

While the Senate bill can be improved, it would welcome more skilled workers and lead to faster economic growth.

by Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick

Now that the Senate has passed comprehensive immigration reform, the action shifts to the House of Representatives. Here the GOP's informal "Hastert Rule" requires Speaker John Boehner to have majority support among Republicans before he will bring legislation to the floor for a vote. That means an immigration bill will need a far greater share of Republican House members than the Senate version received (where fewer than one-third of Republicans voted "aye").

This is a tall order. But it is one to which House Republicans should respond.

No Republican would vote for legislation that stifled economic growth, promoted illegal immigration, added to the welfare rolls, and failed to ensure a secure border. Yet they essentially will do just that if they fail to pass comprehensive immigration reform—and leave in place a system that does all of those things.

To grow economically, the nation needs more young workers, as the population is aging and its growth is slowing. Yet only 13% of the immigration visas each year are issued for work or special skills. Nearly two-thirds go to relatives of existing residents, under an expansive definition of family preferences that includes not just spouses and minor children but parents, siblings and unmarried adult children.

Family preferences crowd out the work-based immigration this country needs. In particular, America's educational system produces only a fraction of the high-skilled workers required for technology jobs.

U.S. universities still attract the world's best and brightest, but few foreign students are allowed to remain after graduating. Many return home or go on to other countries with more sensible immigration policies. Canada has one-tenth of our population—yet it issues far more high-skilled visas (more than 150,000) yearly than we do (65,000).

Illegal immigration results now because there are too few lawful low-skill job opportunities for immigrants. But in both high- and low-skilled industries, the actual alternative to importing workers is not hiring more Americans but exporting jobs.

Today, working-age immigrants contribute to the economy and more to social services than they consume. America needs more of them. Doubling GDP growth to 4% from the anemic 2% that has become the new normal would create more than $4 trillion in additional economic activity in the 10th year—more than the entire current GDP of Germany. It would also add $1 trillion in recurring tax revenues.

The Senate immigration reform addresses most of the flaws of the current system. It reduces family preferences, increases the number of high-skilled visas, expands guest-worker programs, and creates a merit-based immigration system for people who want to pursue the American dream. It also offers a path to citizenship for those who were brought here illegally as children, and dramatically increases resources and tools for border security.

The bill also invites people who came here illegally to come out of the shadows through a provisional resident status. It does not provide an amnesty, that is, a pardon. The Senate bill creates a 13-year probation during which those who came illegally must pay a series of fines and back taxes, undergo background checks, are ineligible for most social services, and must work continuously.

Overall, the bill satisfies a criterion that is essential to the rule of law: It makes it easier to immigrate legally than illegally.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that the Senate bill would reduce the budget deficit by more than $1 trillion over 20 years, boost the economy and increase productivity, without reducing the wages of U.S. workers. In short, it advances Republican economic growth objectives.

Still, the House can make several important improvements. These include clearer and more objective border security "triggers" to assure that the flow of illegal immigrants has been curbed, and a stronger E-Verify system to ensure that only people who are here legally are working. The House also can create more opportunities for work-based immigration by limiting family preferences to spouses and minor children, as most other countries do.

Importantly, the House can increase the artificially low guest-worker numbers included at the behest of labor unions in the Senate bill. The best antidote to illegal immigration in the future is a functioning system that allows workers to come and go legally.

Moreover, the House should beef up civics education requirements for new citizens. Currently, immigrants need answer only six of 10 civics questions correctly to qualify. New citizens should be required not only to learn English but to fully understand the nature and workings of our democratic and free-enterprise systems.

The necessary overhaul of the immigration system cannot be achieved piecemeal. The most important changes—reducing family preferences, creating a robust guest-worker program, and increasing border security—cannot be enacted with Republican votes alone. That means compromise and a comprehensive approach—or the perpetuation of the status quo that has all of the detriments of amnesty without any of the economic benefits of reform.

Such reform is commended by both sound policy and principle. And it will also earn goodwill among citizens of Hispanic and Asian descent. In the 2012 presidential election, Republicans received only 27% of Hispanic votes—down from 40% only 12 years earlier. Fifty thousand Hispanics turn 18 and become eligible to vote every month. Republicans did even worse among Asians—now the largest group of immigrants every year—receiving only 26% of their votes.

Immigration is not the only issue on which Hispanics or Asians vote. But it is a gateway issue. Republicans have much in common with immigrants—beliefs in hard work, enterprise, family, education, patriotism and faith. But for their voice to penetrate the gateway, Republicans need to cease being the obstacle to immigration reform and instead point the way toward the solution.

Mr. Bush is the former Republican governor of Florida. Mr. Bolick is the vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute. They are co-authors of "Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution" (Threshold/Simon & Schuster, 2013).

A version of this article appeared July 1, 2013, on page A15 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: A Republican Case for Immigration Reform.

June 20, 2013

Published by the University of California,
Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics

Immigration Reform 2013:
Implications for California Agriculture

by Philip Martin

Click here to view a pdf that includes
Figures 1, 2 and 3 as referenced in the text below

Congress is considering immigration reform. California farmers hope that a plan to legalize currently unauthorized workers and make it easier for them to hire guest workers in the future will be enacted. The legalization and guest worker proposals being considered should not increase farm labor costs significantly.

There were over 40 million foreign-born U.S. residents in 2011, including 11 million (or over one quarter) who were not authorized to be in the United States. The United States has been debating what to do about these unauthorized foreigners for the past decade, and in April 2013 a bipartisan group of eight senators introduced the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S 744). The Senate Judiciary Committee in May 2013 began to mark up S 744, the most comprehensive immigration reform bill since the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). The Senate is expected to vote on S 744 in June 2013.

S 744 has three key elements:

  • More fences and agents on the Mexico-U.S. border and a requirement that all employers use the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) E-Verify system to check the legal status of new hires, a bid to deter the entry and employment of unauthorized foreigners
  •  A 13-year path to U.S. citizenship for unauthorized foreigners who arrived in the United States before December 31, 2011 and remained "continuously since" their arrival (shorter for unauthorized youth and farm workers)
  • New guest worker programs for low-skilled farm and nonfarm workers and significant increases in the number of H-1B visas available to foreigners with college degrees coming to the United States to fill jobs that require such degrees.

S 744 would also change the mix of legal immigrants. Today, 70% of the immigrants who receive so-called "green cards" or immigrant visas qualify for them because family members already in the United States have sponsored their admission. S 744 would add 125,000 immigrant visas a year distributed on merit or economic grounds and eliminate some family visas, raising the economic share of immigrants. S 744 aims to be revenue-neutral, with fines and fees covering an estimated $17 billion in additional federal spending over the bill's first decade.

Enforcement and Legalization

S 744 authorizes up to $6.5 billion in additional spending to "secure" the 2,000 mile Mexico-U.S. border. The border would be considered secure if 100% of the border is under surveillance and 90% of those attempting to cross illegally are apprehended in areas that have had more than 30,000 apprehensions a year. There were three such areas in 2012: Tucson, the Rio Grande Valley, and Laredo.

Currently, only employers in some states and those with federal contracts must use E-Verify, the Internet-based system that allows employers to submit data on newly hired workers to DHS to determine if they are legally authorized to work in the United States. S 744 assumes that foreigners will be discouraged from coming to the United States if they are not certain employers will hire them, so it requires all employers to check new hires using the E-Verify system within five years.

Employers with more than 5,000 employees would have to use E-Verify within two years of enactment, those with more than 500 employees within three years, and all others a year later. That is, most farm employers would have four years before they have to check the legal status of newly hired workers via the Internet. Employers would not have to check current employees.

When hired, non-U.S. citizens would have to show employers a "biometric work authorization card" or immigrant visa that includes a photo stored in the E-Verify system and can be seen over the Internet by the employer. In states that put photos on driver's licenses, new hires could present drivers' licenses for the required photo.

After DHS submits a plan to secure the Mexico-U.S. border, expected within six months of enactment, unauthorized foreigners who were in the United States before December 31, 2011 could pay $500, any back taxes they owed, and application fees to become "registered provisional immigrants" (RPI) for six years. This RPI status could be renewed after six years for another $500 fee. Unauthorized foreigners would have two years after S 744 is enacted to apply for RPI status.

After 10 years, if a series of enforcement indicators demonstrate that unauthorized migration is "under control" and the backlog of foreigners waiting for immigrant visas is eliminated, RPIs could apply for regular immigrant status by showing they have worked (or were enrolled in school) and lived in the United States since registering. They would have to pay another$1,000 fee and pass a test of English and civics and, after three more years, these now-regular immigrants could apply for United States citizenship.

Provisional RPIs would not be eligible for most federal means-tested welfare benefits, including Food Stamps and subsidized health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. RPIs are likely to be eligible to purchase health insurance on the state exchanges that begin operation in 2014, but could not receive the federal subsidies available to those with low earnings.

There is a separate legalization program for unauthorized farm workers that provides a faster path to immigrant status. Unauthorized farm workers who did at least 100 days or 575 hours of U.S. farm work in the 24 months ending December 31, 2012 could become RPIs and receive blue or agricultural cards by paying an application fee and a $100 fine under a program that would operate for a year after implementing regulations were issued. The spouses and children of RPI farm workers could also register and receive permission to live and work in the United States in any job (not just farm jobs).

In order to become immigrants, agricultural RPIs would have to do at least 150 days of farm work a year for three years in the eight years after enactment of S 744 or 100 days of farm work a year in five of the first eight years after enactment. To become immigrants, agricultural RPIs would have to pay an application fee and a $400 fine, and the family members of RPIs could apply for immigrant visas when the farm worker does.

Guest Workers

The United States now has three major guest worker programs. The H-1B program admits about 100,000 foreigners a year with a college degree who enter the United States to fill a U.S. job that requires a college degree; about half of H-1B visa holders are employed in IT-services. The H-2A program admits an unlimited number of foreign farm workers, about 60,000 a year recently, to fill seasonal farm jobs after the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) certifies farm employers as needing foreign workers. The H-2B program admits up to 66,000 foreign workers a year to fill seasonal nonfarm jobs.

Under S 744, more H-1B visas would be made available and there would be new guest worker programs for farm and nonfarm workers. The number of regular H-1B visas would increase from the current 65,000 a year to 110,000, and the number of visas for foreigners who have earned advanced degrees from U.S. universities would increase from 20,000 to 25,000. A High Skilled Jobs Demand Index could allow the number of H-1B visas to rise by 10,000 a year to a maximum of 180,000, depending on employer requests for H-1B visas, and H-1B workers sponsored by their U.S. employers for immigrant visas would not be counted against the quota.

In an attempt to satisfy critics who allege that the H-1B program allows U.S. employers to replace U.S. workers with H-1B workers, all employers of H-1B workers would have to try to recruit U.S. workers for at least 30 days before hiring H-1B workers by posting job openings on a web site and certifying that they did not lay off U.S. workers to open jobs for H-1Bs. Spouses of H-1B workers could work in the United States if their country of origin provides reciprocal treatment of the spouses of U.S. workers.

Employers considered to be "H-1B dependent," that is, having mostly H-1B employees, would have to pay higher wages and fees and could be prohibited from hiring additional foreigners with H-1B or L-1 visas. Firms with more than 30% of their U.S. workers on temporary visas would have to pay $5,000 for each new temporary foreign worker, and those with more than 50% foreign workers would not be able to sponsor more after 2016. So-called "body shops" that bring H-1B workers into the United States and send them from one employer to another would have their access to foreign workers restricted-- a blow to India-based outsourcers.

The current H-2A program that admits foreign farm workers would be replaced by new W-3 and W-4 guest worker programs a year after S 744 is enacted. USDA would develop the regulations to implement the W-3 and W-4 programs and adjust the number of farm workers admitted.

The W-3 program would be like the current H-2A program and tie a foreign farm worker to a particular U.S. farm employer and job for up to three years. However, W-3 farm workers could work for another registered U.S. farm employer, known as a Designated Agricultural Employer (DAE), after they completed their initial contracts.

The W-4 program resembles the Replenishment Agricultural Worker program in IRCA that was never implemented. W-4 visa holders would need an initial job offer from a DAE to enter the United States, but could "float" from one DAE to another during the three years that their W-4 visas were valid. Both W-3 and W-4 visa holders could re-enter the United States for another three-year term after spending at least 90 days outside the United States.

The number of W-3 and W-4 visas would initially be capped at 112,333 a year, so that a maximum of 337,000 new guest workers could be in the United States at any one time during the three-year period that currently unauthorized farm workers who receive probationary immigrant status are required to continue doing farm work. USDA could recommend an adjustment to the number of W-2 and W-3 visas during the first five years after enactment of S 744, and adjust the number in consultation with the DOL after that.

Minimum hourly wages are established in S 744 for six farm worker occupations. Beginning in 2016, crop workers across the United States must be paid at least $9.64 an hour, graders and sorters $9.84, livestock and dairy workers $11.37, and equipment operators $11.87. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will set wages for agricultural supervisors and animal breeders. These minimum wages will be adjusted each year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Employment Cost Index by at least 1.5% and no more than 2.5%.

California farmers should benefit from a national minimum wage for guest workers that is significantly less than the average hourly earnings of California farm workers, which were $12.56 an hour in 2012. Average hourly earnings rose sharply between 2011 and 2012, and the increase was even greater in the San Joaquin Valley, which has over half of the state's farm workers (Figure 1).

Housing emerged as a major issue. Farm employers wanted to provide housing or a housing allowance only to the W-3 workers who are tied to their farms, but S 744 requires farm employers to provide housing or a housing allowance to both W-3 and W-4 visa holders. U.S. workers employed alongside W-3 and W-4 visa holders would not have to be provided with housing or a housing allowance.

The amount of the housing allowance depends on whether the farm employer is in a metro or non-metro county. In California, W-visa workers would receive $295 a month in metro counties and $225 a monthly in non-metro counties in 2013, or $1.84 an hour in metro counties for full-time workers and $1.40 in non-metro counties. Almost all of California's labor-intensive agriculture is in metro counties.

A new W-2 visa program would admit more low-skilled workers, with the number eventually determined by a Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research, located in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Its $20 million budget raised from fees on W-2 workers and their employers. The Bureau would be charged with determining the annual change to the W-visa cap, devising methods to help employers who use guest workers to recruit U.S. workers, creating a methodology to designate "shortage occupations," and making recommendations on employment-based visa programs.

In order to hire W-2 workers, U.S. employers in metro areas with an unemployment rate of less than 8.5% would register themselves and their jobs and request W-2 visas for specific foreigners. Foreigners' families could also receive W-2 visas, which would be valid for three years. Up to 20,000 W-2 visas could be issued in the first year, 35,000 in the second year, 55,000 in the third year, and 75,000 in the fourth year, and the number could rise further if certain conditions are met. No more than one-third of W-2 visa holders could be employed in construction.

Where will U.S. employers get low-skilled W-visa workers? Mexico-U.S. migration has been declining, and more Mexicans returned to Mexico, often after being deported from the US, than were admitted in recent years (Figure 2). A century ago, most of the state's farm workers were Asians. A combination of longer periods of U.S. employment and the opportunity to bring family members may bring more Asians to the United States as guest workers.

Implications for Agriculture

About three-fourths of the hired workers on U.S. crop farms were born abroad, and over half of all farm workers are not authorized to work in the United States. Although most unauthorized workers are employed in non-farm jobs, California has a higher-than- average share of unauthorized workers than most other states (Figure 3). The state's share of unauthorized farm workers is also higher than average, which explains why California farmers have been in the vanguard of those advocating for immigration reform.

If S 744 is enacted with its current agricultural provisions, there are likely to be three major changes. First, the hired farm work force is likely to become mostly legal, comprised first of currently unauthorized workers who become legal blue card holders and later legal guest workers. Second, labor costs should be stable, since average hourly earnings in California are well above the minimum wage that must be paid to guest workers. Even if farm employers have to pay a housing allowance of up to $2 an hour, the $9.64 that must be paid to guest workers in 2016, plus a $2 an hour housing allowance, is less than the average hourly earnings of crop workers in California in 2012, which were $12.56 an hour.

Third, S 744's agricultural provisions should provide labor certainty for California farmers, and give them advantages over farmers in lower-wage areas of the United States. The capacity to hire legal guest workers for up to six years at $9.64 an hour, with wage increases limited to 2.5% a year, should make it easier to plan investments in labor-intensive agriculture and secure financing for them. California farmers should benefit by the switch from a national minimum wage for guest workers rather than state-by-state wages. The current Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWRs) that must be paid to legal guest workers in 2013 range from $9.50 an hour in some southern states to $12 in Oregon and Washington; the California AEWR is $10.74.

The agricultural provisions of S 744 benefit currently unauthorized farm workers at the expense of future guest workers. Currently unauthorized farm workers and their families can become legal immigrants and leave the farm work force within five years, while future guest workers will have lower wages and perhaps fewer protections than current guest workers. Farm worker advocates and farm employers negotiated the agricultural provisions of S 744, and both have said they will strongly resist efforts to change what they describe as a "delicately balanced compromise." If enacted, they should provide California agriculture with a legal work force at current costs.

Philip Martin is a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis who can be contacted at

May 27, 2013

Published in the Washington Post

Senate immigration bill could benefit
U.S. agriculture, too

By Editorial Board

So many parts of the nation's immigration system are rusting, clanking or broken that the situation affords an opportunity for reformers in the Senate: Devise a legislative fix for practically everything and, in the process, forge a broad coalition for a sweeping overhaul that includes legalizing 11 million unauthorized immigrants.

The absurdly dysfunctional agricultural sector is a prime example. Up to two-thirds of the workforce tending to crops and livestock - at least 1 million current workers - are undocumented, up from a third in the mid-1990s. Many are relatively skilled, most have been in the country for a decade or more, and some have moved up to jobs in middle management. Despite their central role in providing the country's food, they remain subject to harassment, raids and deportation.

Farmers and ranchers have complained about this for years, warning that the shortage of native-born workers willing and able to do agricultural work, along with the threats to migrant labor, would put farmers out of business and shift crop production overseas. Their increasingly dire pronouncements have been met by the usual right-wing rhetoric attacking "amnesty" for illegal workers.

At the same time, the creaky visa system designed to supply agribusiness with foreign guest workers is widely seen as a failure - bureaucratic, inflexible and incapable of meeting time- and weather-sensitive labor demands. By the time guest workers are issued visas, it's often too late. The results are that relatively few employers rely on the program and farmers struggle with chronic labor shortages.
Past attempts at a standalone fix have failed in Congress, lacking unified support from agribusiness and farm workers. But employers and unions forged a deal just in time for inclusion in the Senate immigration bill.

Their pact would grant legal status through so-called Blue Cards for undocumented farm workers, who could become permanent legal residents in a sped-up five-year process. The guest-worker visa program would be scrapped in favor of a new system to provide up to 337,000 visas over three years for foreign farm workers. Unions got a relatively tight cap on visas (though it could be adjusted in the future by the agriculture secretary) and a requirement that employers pay for migrants' housing and transportation to and from the job. Employers mostly held the line on wages.

It's in no one's interest to saddle farmers and ranchers with an unstable workforce and labor shortages that threaten the supply of domestically grown crops. The agricultural provisions in the immigration bill would go a good distance toward fixing that. And as part of the overall immigration legislation, it may generate support for the bill from some rural lawmakers who would otherwise oppose it.

© The Washington Post Company

May 24, 2013

Published in the Washington Post

Immigration bill is on the right track

The most far-reaching overhaul of the nation’s immigration system in a generation has emerged mostly unscathed from the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill’s bipartisan sponsors showed that, even in Washington, the center can sometimes hold. Though the legislation, all 800-odd pages of it, contains provisions that pained Democrat and Republican backers alike, they gritted their teeth and voted it out of committee and onto the Senate floor.

The bill’s prospects remain cloudy, particularly in the Republican-dominated House. Still, it remains the best hope for legalization and eventual citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants since the last major attempt at immigration reform failed in 2007.

The Senate committee’s handling of more than 200 amendments — many of them designed to gut, cripple or poison the original legislation — was a model of big-picture problem-solving trumping ideology and partisan grandstanding. The committee’s Democrats and some of its Republicans united to squash restrictionist attempts to strip the bill of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants; to tie progress on legalization to unachievable attempts to make the nation’s borders airtight; and to slash future legal immigration levels, notwithstanding the labor market’s demand.

The bill’s bipartisan backers were just as resolute in opposing amendments that would have been unpalatable to many Republicans. Chief among these was a proposal by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., the committee chairman, to allow gay Americans to sponsor their foreign-born spouses for green cards.

That provision would have made the bill fairer and more humane; it would also have cost the support of key Republican senators, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, one of the bill’s authors. Democrats who are strong advocates of gay rights, including Sens. Charles E. Schumer, N.Y., Dianne Feinstein, Calif., and Richard J. Durbin, Ill., swallowed hard and urged Mr. Leahy to drop his amendment. He did.

The bill retains plenty of flaws, some of them major. Tens of thousands of migrants who have entered the country since 2011 would remain in the shadows, ineligible for legal status, owing to an unrealistic cutoff date. An artificially low limit on visas for low-skilled workers, especially in the construction industry, could create an incentive for ongoing illegal immigration. Billions of dollars for beefed-up border security programs — on a southwestern border that is already more secure than it has been in decades — is wasteful overkill.

Still, the legislation would reshape the nation’s broken-down, irrational immigration system in ways that would bear fruit for decades. After years of denial, it would recognize the nation’s competitive need for foreign workers in high-tech, agriculture and low-skilled occupations while retaining preferences for family reunification. And by offering 11 million illegal immigrants a shot at the American dream, it would remove a poisonous issue from the nation’s political debate while giving the economy a boost.

So far, a critical mass of senators in both parties seems mindful of those priorities, and the bill moves toward the full Senate with considerable momentum. Here’s hoping that the House takes those cues from the Senate.

© 2013 The Washington Post

May 23, 2013

Published on

Conservative economists push
immigration reform

By: Seung Min Kim

Conservatives rallying in favor of comprehensive immigration reform are keeping up their pressure on Congress.

In a letter being released Thursday, more than 110 economists urged Hill leadership to enact comprehensive immigration reform, portraying it as a necessity to improve the country’s fiscal outlook.

“Immigration reform’s positive impact on population growth, labor force growth, housing, and other markets will lead to more rapid economic growth,” the letter says. “This, in turn, translates into a positive impact on the federal budget. “

The effort was spearheaded by the American Action Forum. Signers include the organization’s president, former Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holtz-Eakin; Glenn Hubbard, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush; former Reagan economist Arthur Laffer; and Edward Prescott, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2004.

The full Senate will dig into the immigration debate in earnest next month, after the Judiciary Committee passed the Gang of Eight legislation on a 13-5 vote Tuesday.

The business community and conservative reform proponents have repeatedly touted the economic benefits of overhauling the country’s immigration laws. But opponents of immigration reform have zeroed in on its potential price tag to drum up resistance to the Senate legislation – such as a Heritage Foundation study that argues immigration reform could cost $6.3 trillion of taxpayer funds on entitlements and social programs over several decades.

Reform backers have fought back, saying Heritage’s analysis doesn’t take into account the economic growth that could come from a bigger and more skilled labor force. The CBO has not released a score of the Senate bill but indicated earlier this month that it would use dynamic scoring, meaning it would gauge the broader economic impact of immigration reform.

Thursday’s letter was addressed to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).


May 22, 2013

Special to The Times (Seattle, WA)

Grow the economy with immigration reform

By Don Brunell and Mike Gempler

A new bill to reform America's immigration laws was introduced in the U.S. Senate and was approved by the Judiciary Committee Tuesday. This will likely kick off several months of intense legislative activity on immigration.

Congress must succeed this time. It is time for comprehensive immigration reform, and perhaps no area of the country has a greater stake in this debate than Washington state.

Our economy and the health of our communities depend on trade, technology and agriculture. Washington needs workers of all skill levels, from highly educated specialists who work in our software and high-tech industries to those who work on our farms in the rural areas. Immigration is vital to providing Washington the workforce necessary to grow our economy.

That economic imperative, along with the need to deal with this issue in a realistic and compassionate manner, has led us to join with leaders in Washington's business, faith, agriculture and law-enforcement communities to sign the Washington Compact, at, a set of five principles intended to frame discussions about immigration reform in our state this year and hopefully create a model for the debate at the federal level.
The compact acknowledges how vital immigration is to growing a free-market economy, particularly here. Every study done, including those done by groups such as the Cato Institute and the Brookings Institution, confirms that immigrants expand economic vitality and growth.

As economies in many parts of the world stagnate due to an aging population, immigration holds the key to America's future expansion.
The compact recognizes that we must strengthen federal laws, both to protect our nation's borders and to create a fair path to legal status for those without documentation.

Border security must be part of a comprehensive solution. While there is no doubt that our borders are more secure than in the past, more remains to be done.

In addition, we recognize that to keep our communities safe, local law-enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.

We also acknowledge that strong families are the foundation of successful and cohesive communities. We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families.

Finally, we state clearly that hundreds of thousands of immigrants are integrated into communities across Washington state today. They work, attend church and are active in their communities. Their kids are in classrooms every day. Immigrants are part of the fabric of Washington right now. We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion.

An impressive cross section of leaders and groups has already signed on to the Washington Compact, including the Association of Washington Business, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the Washington Growers League and 14 other groups representing agriculture, churches and faith groups.

Reflecting the bipartisan spirit of the compact, Republican leaders, including former Secretary of State Sam Reed and former U.S. Rep. Sid Morrison are signers. They join Dale Foreman and Chris Vance, both former state legislators and former chairmen of the Washington State Republicans.

Washington's congressional delegation, which includes influential leaders in both houses and both parties, can and should play a key role in finally passing comprehensive immigration reform, because in this Washington, immigration is a local issue.

The debate has begun in earnest in the nation's capital. This time let's pass immigration reform.

Don Brunell, left, is president of the Association of Washington Business. Mike Gempler is executive director of the Washington Growers League.

May 5, 2013

Published in the Yakima Herald-Republic

Immigration obstructionism
doesn't serve nation's needs

Congress - much of Congress, anyway - finally is getting serious about revamping our nation's immigration laws. While leaders of both the Senate and House acknowledge the need for comprehensive reform, the chambers are taking decidedly different approaches on the subject.

The measure from the Democratic-controlled Senate, brokered by a bipartisan "Gang of Eight," would allow tens of thousands of new high-skilled and low-skilled workers into the country, require all employers to check their workers' legal status, strengthen border security and provide an eventual path to citizenship for about 11 million immigrants now in this country illegally.

Of special interest to the Yakima Valley, the Senate measure would give special consideration for those who labored at least part time in agriculture, along with their immediate families. According to a published framework of the plan, "Agricultural workers who commit to the long-term stability of our nation's agricultural industries will be treated differently than the rest of the undocumented population because of the role they play in ensuring that Americans have safe and secure agricultural products to sell and consume."

The plan also spells out increased surveillance measures along the U.S.-Mexico border, aims to create a verification system that actually works, and establishes a "Dream Act" for minor children who were brought to this country. President Barack Obama supports the Senate measure.

The Republican-controlled House is opting for a slower, piecemeal approach. Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, won't commit to completing action on a bill this year, as the Senate and Obama want. Goodlatte has stated that ag-worker programs and workplace enforcement come first, an encouraging sign for Valley agriculture, but not a harbinger that needed comprehensive reform will pass.

Congressman Doc Hastings, a Pasco Republican whose ag-dependent 4th District includes the Yakima Valley, isn't showing his hand yet, saying he wants to see what kind of bill makes it through the Senate. "I firmly believe that our immigration system is broken," he said in a statement last week, "and I have long supported a complete reform of our immigration laws." Given his support of complete reform, we urge him to reject tactics that would undermine immigration reform altogether.

And that is the danger of House approach. Selecting some provisions and discarding others may rally a political party's base, but it could upend the compromise that results from the more comprehensive measure. There is plenty that liberals and conservatives don't like about the Senate bill. But it is a measure that gives to both sides, takes from both sides and offers something for both sides to support.

Piecemeal consideration risks death by delay for immigration reform, which some Republicans would like to see. Many equate a path to citizenship with amnesty, despite a 10-year waiting status for nonagricultural workers and a requirement to pass background checks, among other provisions.

Also, some loud voices in the Republican Party warn that allowing more immigrants to become citizens - which means they could vote - would mean more ballots cast for Democratic Party candidates. Serious political analysis disputes this contention, and reflexive opposition to immigration reform would only further erode support among current voters of all ethnicities who understand that the current system needs changes. A Pew Research Center survey in March found 71 percent of Americans favor finding a way for immigrants to stay in this country legally, either through citizenship or permanent residency.

Republicans still have strong political standing in areas that entrepreneurial-inclined immigrants will find appealing, such as fiscal discipline and a simpler tax code. Analysts repeatedly have pointed out that Republican positions also can appeal to socially conservative immigrants.

There's no quarrel with amending the plan to make it better; that's part of the process. But we agree with Rep. Hastings that the current immigration system is broken, and those blocking the bill without offering serious counterproposals essentially are saying with a straight face that the system works just fine. Obstruction may be an option that's good for some politically, but it is not good for the country economically or socially.

Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Sharon J. Prill, Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello

May 4, 2013

From the Washington Growers League

U.S. Senate introduces comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes negotiated agreement with Ag and Labor; U.S. House starts with piecemeal approach

In the U.S. Senate, S. 744, the bi-partisan comprehensive immigration reform bill negotiated by the so-called “gang of eight,” was introduced on April 16th by Senators Schumer, McCain and others. S. 744 includes an agriculture provision as negotiated by the Agricultural Workforce Coalition, the United Farm Workers union (UFW) and key Senators. Provisions based on this agreement form an integral part of S. 744.

The Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC), which negotiated the agriculture provisions for the Senate bill, is a group of national agricultural organizations such as Western Growers, National Council of Agricultural Employers, U.S. Apple, the Agricultural Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR), the American Farm Bureau Federation, Florida Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, among others, and serves as the unified voice of agriculture in the immigration reform effort.

The AWC-UFW negotiated agreement includes both an earned adjustment of status for current agricultural employees who presently lack legal status and a two-part “guest worker” program: one a “free-will” program that allows workers to enter the U.S. and work for agricultural employers of their choice; and the other a “contract-based” program that allows agricultural employers to contract with specific employees for specific periods of time. Also, unlike current programs such as H-2A, the AWC proposal is meant to ensure that all types of producersincluding those with seasonal labor needs and those with year-round labor needshave access to the workforce they need to remain productive and competitive. Summaries of the AWC-UFW immigration program agreement and the Senate comprehensive bill, S.744, are available on the WGL website. Go to

The House of Representatives has begun work on immigration reform with a piecemeal approach. Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced an agricuture program bill on April 23rd called the “H-2C Work Visa Program for Agricultural Workers.” (Visit the WGL website for a summary.) Although the bill may make it through the House Judiciary Committee, it is unlikely that it will be passed into law due to its partisan nature. We hope that House leadership will consider more politically viable legislation that includes an agriculture section similar to the negotiated Senate agriculture agreement. 


April 28, 2013

Published in the Washington Post

A conservative backlash threatens
immigration reform

By Editorial Board

THE BACKLASH has begun against immigration reform, specifically the provision that would legalize the status of 11?million undocumented immigrants and ultimately give these people a shot at citizenship. Led by conservative Republicans and whipped into a froth by right-wing radio talk-show hosts, opponents of reform are banking on derailing the measure with a strategy of delay and dismemberment.

The focus of these efforts is the House, where many Republican back-benchers remain unsold on immigration reform despite the party's disastrous loss of the Latino vote in 2012.
On Thursday, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and an opponent of a pathway to citizenship, served notice that the delay-and-dismemberment plan was under way. Rather than wait for a comprehensive immigration bill to wend its way through the Senate, or for a roughly similar plan to emerge from a bipartisan group in the House, Mr. Goodlatte said his committee would consider a series of smaller bills.

That strategy gives conservatives a chance to say they were for immigration reform before they were against it. They may vote for bills that would tighten border security, provide a steady source of migrant farm workers and expand a program that companies may use to verify the immigration status of employees. Then, decrying "amnesty," they can shoot down measures that would extend legal status and eventual citizenship to most of the undocumented.

In poll after poll, large majorities of Americans say they favor granting legal status to illegal immigrants, most of whom have been in the country for more than a decade and are vital to the U.S. economy. Even if some conservatives cling to the idea of "self-deportation," most Americans acknowledge that 11 million people cannot be bullied into leaving the country and should not be left in legal limbo.

Recognizing that, a number of Republican leaders have taken the lead in pushing for a comprehensive bill, courageously urging their party to drop the myth of mass deportation. In effect, these lawmakers are pleading with their colleagues not to commit long-term electoral suicide by continuing to alienate the nation's fastest-growing minority voting bloc. Still, they face a struggle.

The most prominent among these leaders is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a putative contender for the party's presidential nomination in 2016, who is taking abuse on conservative talk radio for having helped draft the Senate bill. Mr. Rubio has been joined by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who appeared last week at a series of events in Chicago, plugging a comprehensive approach alongside a pro-reform Democrat, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (Ill.).

"We need it for national security reasons. We need it for the economy," Mr. Ryan said. "We do not want to have a society where we have different classes of people who cannot reach their American dream by not being a full citizen."

This is common sense, but it is also the kind of talk that has been unwelcome in many Republican circles. The question is whether the GOP, after so many years of denial, is capable of weaning itself from its delusions.

© The Washington Post Company

April 21, 2013

Published in The Spokesman-Review

Editorial: Immigration compromise
is right way to reform

The last time the nation seemed on the verge of comprehensive immigration reform, terrorists attacked and the nation’s attention was diverted into two wars. The discussion was reduced to two words: border security. By the time President George W. Bush returned to the issue, it had been picked apart by fear-mongering nativists. The next two Republican presidential candidates adopted a hard line.

But after the 2012 electoral drubbing at the hands of Latino voters, the Republican Party is softening its tone and a key senator, John McCain, is back in the fold. McCain is among the Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group of senators who are proposing a tough but realistic plan to bring immigration policy into the 21st Century.

Conditions are also ripe for a bill in the House, because Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, has the credibility to persuade “Young Turk” conservatives who gained office in 2010 that reform is good for the party and the nation. Labrador is a former immigration lawyer and, as a recent National Journal article noted, his knowledge and Puerto Rican roots enable him to neutralize the immigrant-bashers in his caucus.

This is the best opportunity since the 9/11 attacks to solve this complicated issue, so we encourage Congress to seize it. The Gang of Eight plan unveiled Thursday forms the framework for the coming debate, and it has gained an impressive and diverse backing. Supporters include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, conservative religious leaders, immigration advocates and agricultural groups.

Some liberals won’t like the increased spending on border security or how long it takes to achieve citizenship. Some conservatives won’t like the path to citizenship or the de-escalation of deportation. But this is how compromise is forged and votes gathered. The genius of the plan is that it ties reform to border security. If tough security goals aren’t met, the processes for provisional citizenship and green cards will be stalled.

Critics are already calling the plan “amnesty,” but they don’t have a credible plan for what to do with the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally. The Senate plan would give them provisional status as they embark on the 13-year journey to citizenship. Along the way, they must pay penalties for illegal entry and back taxes. They can be booted for the commission of felonies or multiple misdemeanors. But as long as they follow the rules, they can legally work, travel and re-enter the country.

In Washington state, reform would be a boon to the economy, especially for farms and orchards. As Mike Gempler, director of the Washington Growers League, told the editorial board, the hot economy of the 1990s would not have been possible without immigrant laborers, many of whom were in the country illegally.

Our nation needs to resolve the contradictory “Help Wanted” and “Keep Out” messages we send across our borders. It isn’t fair or productive to build wealth on the backs of undocumented workers and then deny them any way to keep their families together, share in the bounty and achieve legal status.

April 20, 2013

Published in the Wenatchee World

For immigration reform, it is time

On May 1 a local group supporting immigration reform will march from the Wenatchee Community Center to Lincoln Park, to "raise awareness." They will march not for "amnesty" or favors or sympathy, but in the hope that at last we can solve a problem that has been festering in our country for 30 years. Our friends, our neighbors, our classmates and co-workers, hundreds of families and thousands of people who make their home in this region and this beloved state, have spent their lives in a legal limbo. Now, a bipartisan law, filled with compromise, may grant them the opportunity to work for the security of legal status. The so-called path to citizenship will be very long and require years of persistent effort, but soon it may stretch before them. That is an opportunity long awaited and long overdue.

We pray that Congress, in all its turmoil and partisan division, will not let this opportunity pass. The time for immigration reform has at last arrived. The bill unveiled by the so-called Gang of Eight senators last week is complex and riddled with obvious give and take, but it is a good starting point for what may be the most important national conversation in a generation. The outcome will affect perhaps 40 percent of the Latino population of Wentchee, said Jorge Chacón, a march organizer. It is historic. "Hundreds and hundreds of people will have the opportunity to be part of our great America."

The key provision of the bill deals with the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the United States. It will be criticized and assailed and called "amnesty," but in the details it is anything but lenient. Applicants will have to pass checks, pay fines and taxes, wait a decade and then "go to the back of the line" for a green card. It's more ordeal than amnesty, but a step toward sensible policy.

The crucial element of agricultural labor involves a compromise endorsed by labor and industry. Current undocumented workers could apply for a "blue card" if they remain in agriculture, and be eligible for a green card in five years. The mandatory use of the E-Verify system to screen out illegal workers would be phased in over five years. New immigrants in agriculture would enter under a modified guest worker program, with guaranteed minimum wage and job portability.

If this comes to pass, for all of us, there will be a new sense of security. Families need not fear deportation, businesses and farms will have a work force, and the United States will have more secure borders. There will be no border security without a functioning immigration system. That we do not have now, but at last we have a chance to see it come to be.

This is the opinion of The Wenatchee World and its Editorial Board: Publisher Rufus Woods, Editor Cal FitzSimmons and Editorial Page Editor Tracy Warner.

April 18, 2013

Published in the New York Times

Fate of the Immigration Bill May Hinge on Farm Districts


WASHINGTON — Any chance of getting immigration legislation through the House will most likely depend on representatives like Doc Hastings.

While he has not been the most outspoken about immigration issues, proponents of an overhaul are counting on Mr. Hastings, a Republican, for one reason: His Congressional district, which cuts a wide path through the center of Washington State, depends heavily on agriculture, an industry with a significant stake in the outcome of the debate.

Much of Washington’s $46 billion agriculture sector is in Mr. Hastings’s district, where farmers grow everything from apples to wheat. Local agribusinesses there rely on a work force largely composed of immigrants, thousands of whom are believed to be in the country illegally.

A coalition of 11 agriculture groups has launched a major lobbying campaign in support of an immigration overhaul. Members of the effort, known as the Agricultural Workforce Coalition, see representatives from districts where thousands of jobs depend on agriculture as key to any effort to pass the legislation.

Agriculture Department data shows that Republicans represent 17 of the top 20 districts where agriculture is a major industry. And farm groups are hoping that local concerns will trump national politics as the legislation moves forward in the Republican-controlled House, where it will most likely face a tough challenge from conservatives who have been hostile to previous attempts to change the system.

“Republicans from big agriculture districts will definitely be the deciding factor in getting any type of immigration reform through the House,” said Dean Norton, a dairy farmer who is president of the New York Farm Bureau. “There is a lot of clamoring in these districts to do something about immigration.”

Mr. Hastings has not said if he would support the immigration legislation introduced in the Senate, but he has backed efforts to help the farm sector in the past.

Neal Kirby, Mr. Hastings’s spokesman, said the congressman “has long advocated for a guest worker program for agriculture that is workable and will provide central Washington farmers with the legal work force they need to fill jobs that Americans are not” willing to do.

“Developing a workable program as a part of immigration reform is critical to central Washington’s economy,” he said.

The farm sector has been a core constituency of the Republican Party for many years. Campaign contribution data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington research group, shows that since 1990, agriculture interests have mostly given to Republicans in Congress.

Last year, farm-heavy districts voted overwhelmingly for Mitt Romney. Tom Nassif, president of the Western Growers, and Chuck Conners, president of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, two of the organizations pushing for immigration legislation, were advisers to Mr. Romney during the campaign.

Agriculture’s main focus is on changing the H-2A visa program, which allows fruit and vegetable growers, slaughterhouses and other agribusinesses to hire temporary workers for jobs that cannot be filled by Americans.

The system allows foreign workers to enter the country on a visa for no longer than one year.

But agriculture officials say the current system does not work because industries like dairy farming and meat production are year-round enterprises and are unable to fill their need for workers. They also say the program is overly bureaucratic.

Among the changes the farm sector wants to see is the replacement of the seasonal visa program with one that would allow workers to accept a job under a three-year visa.

The agriculture groups, which lobbied heavily on Capitol Hill as a group of senators worked to draft an immigration bill, say they will soon began a similar campaign in the House.

“We will bring the weight of growers in all 50 states to the Senate and the House in support of this legislation,” said Tom Stenzel, chief executive of the United Fresh Produce Association, a trade group of fruit and vegetable growers.

Despite high unemployment in Mr. Hastings’s Washington district, growers and other farm interests there say they still suffer from worker shortages because of current immigration laws.

Mr. Kirby, Mr. Hastings’s spokesman, said the congressman had met with the farm lobbying coalition and had been in contact with growers. “This has been a longtime priority of Congressman Hastings,” he said.

March 27, 2013

Published in The Columbian (Vancouver, WA)

In Our View: Immigration Reform Overdue
Focus on guiding principles and leave the details up to Congress

As of Tuesday, March 26, 2013 immigration reform remains little more than an elusive goal, even as the public pushes for meaningful action in 2013 by a deeply divided Congress. The only thing conservatives and liberals agree on is that the nation's broken immigration system must be repaired. But too often the discussion is bogged down in disputes over minutiae. Politicians cannot see the forest because they are hyperventilating about the trees.

In our state, a coalition of agriculture, business and faith groups have tried to kick-start immigration reform by focusing on the forest. Intentionally and perhaps even admirably, their document - the "Washington Compact" - eschews details. Instead, it wisely focuses on five guiding principles. Sorting out the trees and finalizing details are tasks left to Congress. This compact resembles similar recommendations crafted by collaborative groups in Texas, Arizona, Iowa, Utah and Colorado. Signatories of our state's version include the Washington Association of Business, the Washington Growers League and the King County sheriff.

The compact resembles the three-point stance taken by The Columbian seven years ago, when we editorialized that immigration reform must: (1) recognize that border security must be increased, (2) abandon any intent to accomplish the impossible task of deporting 12 million undocumented immigrants who live in the United States and (3) increase penalties against employers who hire undocumented immigrants.

The five guiding principles of the Washington Compact essentially are (1) immigration reform is a federal (not state) responsibility (2) local law enforcement should be left to focus on criminal activities and not federal civil violations (3) policies that unnecessarily separate family members should be avoided (4) reform must preserve national and state economies, particularly in Washington, where agriculture interests rely so heavily on immigrant workers and (5) assimilation of immigrants into the American mainstream society should be encouraged while still respecting diversity and preserving the unique distinctions of various cultures.

The Washington Compact was written by leaders of the groups at a March 5 meeting in Yakima. In a March 12 column published in The Columbian, Don Brunell, president of the Association of Washington Business, pointed out that "even though 300,000 people in our state are unemployed, Central Washington growers could not find enough workers last year to harvest their crops. With no one to bring in the harvest, fruits and vegetables were left to rot in the field."

That example is why immigration reform is so important to agriculture and the economy in Washington. But it's also important to our state's humanitarian interests, the need to keep families together whenever possible. The Washington Compact's overt interests can be simply stated: Make it harder for people to immigrate illegally, and make it easier for people to immigrate legally. Meeting that goal, however, is as difficult as … well, getting members of Congress to agree on anything these days.

March 25, 2013

Published in the Tri-City Herald

Special to the Herald: New state compact recognizes immigration is our future

Nothing is more American than the dreams of an immigrant. The courage and determination to leave your old life to build a better future for yourself and your children defines our nation; but from the beginning it also has divided us. We Americans have always disagreed over immigration.

Today, we are searching for a new national consensus on immigration policy, one that involves both of our great political parties. Congress will once again this year attempt to pass comprehensive immigration reform. This time we must succeed, and this state can help lead the way.

Leaders in Washington's business, faith, agriculture and law enforcement communities have come together to sign the Washington Compact, a set of five principles that are intended to frame discussions about immigration reform in our state this year, and we hope it will create a model for the debate at the federal level.

The compact recognizes that under our constitutional system, immigration is a federal issue, and our federal leaders must offer a balanced solution. We must strengthen federal laws to protect our nation's borders and create a fair path to legal status for those without documentation.

Border security must be part of a comprehensive solution. While there is no doubt that our borders are more secure than in the past, more remains to be done to ensure that resources we spend on the border, at a time when resources are limited, are effectively used.

The compact acknowledges how vital immigration is to a growing free market economy, particularly in Washington. Every study done, including those done by conservative groups such as the Cato Institute and the Brookings Institution, confirm that immigrants of all skill levels bring vitality and growth to our economy.

As economies in many parts of the world stagnate because of aging populations, immigration holds the key to future American growth. Nowhere is that more true than here in Washington, where our economy is based on trade, technology and agriculture. To compete in a global economy we need the economic engine of immigration.

In addition, we recognize that to keep our communities safe, local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.

We also acknowledge that strong families are the foundation of successful and cohesive communities. We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families. We champion policies that support families and improve the health, education and well-being of all Washington's families and children.

Finally, we state clearly that hundreds of thousands of immigrants are integrated into communities across Washington state today. We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion. The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors. Washington should always be a place that welcomes people of good will.

An impressive cross section of leaders and groups have already signed on to the Washington Compact, including the Association of Washington Business, the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, the Washington Growers League and 14 other groups representing agriculture, and numerous churches and faith groups.

Reflecting the bipartisan spirit of the compact, Republican leaders, including former Secretary of State Sam Reed and former Congressman Sid Morrison, are signers. They join two former legislators and chairmen of the Washington State Republican Party, Dale Foreman and Chris Vance.

We hope more leaders will join us in the weeks ahead as Congress moves towards a historic vote. Immigration is our heritage and the key to our future. It is time for a new consensus; a new compact.

Don Brunell is president of the Association of Washington Business. Mike Gempler is executive director of the Washington Growers League.

March 24, 2013

Published in the Yakima Herald-Republic

Time is now to achieve true reform of immigration

With momentum building locally and nationally, Congress has its best chance since 2007 for instituting serious immigration reform. That year, then-President George W. Bush pushed a measure that offered legal status to millions of illegal immigrants while addressing border security.

It never got a final vote in the Senate, as a measure to end debate and move toward final passage garnered only 46 of the 60 necessary votes. Republicans led the opposition, supplying 37 of the no votes, but 15 Democrats also rejected the motion.

We're now stuck with a system - a non-system, really - that nobody likes, and apparently people don't like it enough that they're willing to do something about it. Adding impetus is a Republican desire to reach out to Latino voters, who overwhelmingly supported Democrats in the 2012 general election.

In the Senate, a bipartisan "Gang of Eight" reportedly is progressing toward a deal acceptable to both unions and business interests on labor supply. Any truly effective reform must address the needs of labor-intensive agriculture in Washington state and around the country. Labor opposition to guest-worker provisions helped defeat the 2007 effort.

Meanwhile, many conservative Republicans view warily any provision that makes it easier for those now here illegally to gain some kind of legal status. But rising tea party-backed Republican leaders like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul say reform must address the issue, with Rubio endorsing a path to citizenship. Paul is taking on conservative critics of reform head-on; Thursday he told Meanwhile, a bipartisan group in the House of Representatives has been working in secret on a plan, and negotiators reportedly have made real progress. Republican leaders in the House are awaiting Senate action before moving on the issue.

In concept at least, the congressional moves are in line with public sentiment. A national poll released Thursday found 63 percent of Americans, including 53 percent of Republicans, agree that immigrants currently living in this country illegally should be allowed to become citizens if they meet certain requirements. The survey of 4,500 respondents was conducted by the Public Research Institute in conjunction with The Brookings Institution.

In Yakima, a coalition of more than 40 agriculture, business and faith entities gathered earlier this month to call on Congress to pass immigration reform. The five-point Washington Compact calls for policies that meet the needs of state residents and create a fair path to legal status.

The difficulty lies in the details, and there is still plenty of room for these efforts to fail. Labor could object to provisions regarding workers in agriculture or high-tech industries. Conservatives could make border security demands that can't be met. Opponents have a right to disagree, but they need to be part of the discussion and propose workable alternatives if they don't like what's out there. Otherwise, they are essentially saying the status quo is working just fine. It isn't.

Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Sharon J. Prill, Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello.


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Bills & Documents

Farm Workforce Modernization Act passes U.S. House of Representatives, sent to U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, December 12, 2019
Farm Workforce Modernization Act

Republicans introduce Border Security and Immigration Reform Act, June 19, 2018
Border Security and Immigration Reform Act

Department of Homeland Security Memo issued 02/20/2017
Enforcement of the
Immigration Laws to
Serve the National Interest

A new research report showing the contributions immigrants make to Washington's economy
The Contributions of New Americans in Washington
Released August 2016

A report from the
American Action Forum
Budgetary & Economic
Costs of Addressing
Unauthorized Immigration

Released March 2015

Legal Workforce Act
HR 1147, Feb. 27, 2015

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