On Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed their comprehensive Immigration and Border Security bill, S. 744, by a vote of 68 to 32. Agricultural organizations were quick to praise the passage as a step toward a more stable and legal workforce. Immigration reform will however face a bumpier road in the House of Representatives.
“A strong year-round workforce is paramount to the success of the cattle industry, says NCBA President Scott George, a cattle and dairy producer from Cody, Wyo. “Cattlemen depend on a legal and stable workforce year round. We recognize that the first step in ensuring the success of our workforce is securing and maintaining our borders. The conversations taking place on the Hill right now are keeping these issues front and center and we truly appreciate those efforts.”
Deborah Atwood, Executive Director of AGree, also praised the Senate’s action. “Today’s margin of victory sends the very strong message that solving this issue is of vital importance to the future of our nation. Every sector of our economy will benefit immensely from this legislation, but maybe none more profoundly than American agriculture, which is why all food and ag sectors are united in support. This legislation will mean a better future for millions of foreign-born agricultural workers and for farmers and ranchers struggling with serious labor shortages.”
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson had this to say. “I am very pleased by the Senate’s action on immigration reform today. S. 744 includes important provisions that will bring greater stability to the farm workforce and provide a practical, legal means for immigrants to work in agriculture. It also allows for peace of mind for all parties in agriculture to know that a more easy-to-use and effective system will be enacted. I look forward to continuing to work with the House of Representatives to pass immigration legislation that achieves many of these same ends.”
It seems unlikely, though, the House will pass similar legislation. The Senate’s bill would create a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants and establish a new visa program for immigrant workers while increasing border security to prevent illegal immigration.
Quoted in a CNN article, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the House is not going to adopt and vote on whatever the Senate passes, but will instead craft its own bill that reflects the will of the Republican majority. He has pledged to block a vote on any immigration legislation that does not have the support of a majority of House Republicans.