Thursday, June 27, 2013

Farm Bureau, USDA Speak on Immigration Reform Bill Passed by U.S. Senate

The U.S. Senate today passed its bill on immigration reform.

Yahoo! News reports the following:

The Senate passed a sweeping immigration reform bill on Thursday afternoon, after a recently hashed-out compromise on border security helped convince a total of 14 Republicans to vote for the measure. The bill, which passed 68 to 32, could face a steep uphill climb in the Republican-controlled House.

The vote brings Congress a step closer to passing its first major immigration reform since the 1986 amnesty bill that legalized more than three million immigrants under President Ronald Reagan.

Moments before the vote, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) said on the Senate floor that the "historic legislation recognizes that today's immigrants came for the right reason, the same reason as the generations before them...the right to live in a land that's free."

Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa spoke against the measure on the floor, arguing that it does not do enough to increase interior immigration enforcement. "The bill won't ensure that a future Congress isn't back here in 25 years dealing with the very same problems," Grassley said.

The "Gang of Eight," a bipartisan group of senators who drafted the bill, had hoped to get 70 out of 100 senators to vote to pass the bill and send a strong signal to the Republican-controlled house that the legislation is bipartisan.

The bill fell just two votes short of that goal. Republican Senators Lamar Alexander, Kelly Ayotte, Jeffrey Chiesa, Susan Collins, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, Lindsay Graham, Orrin Hatch, Dean Heller, John Hoeven, Mark Kirk, John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Marco Rubio joined the entire Democratic caucus in voting for the measure.

The reform will implement a mandatory, national employment verification system, allow for more legal immigration of low- and high-skilled workers, beef up border security and eventually give green cards to most of the nation's 11 million unauthorized immigrants who pass background checks and pay fines.

Here is a statement from New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton on the bill passage:

“Today’s passage of comprehensive immigration reform is a major milestone for New York’s farmers. It addresses critical short and long term needs that will better provide a stable workforce on our farms.

"Those needs include allowing employees who are already skilled and working in this state to stay here and eventually obtain legal status. It’s gratifying to see the hard work New York Farm Bureau has demonstrated on behalf of our farm families result in real movement on this issue for the first time in years.

"Currently, our farms face serious challenges in hiring the amount of workers required to plant and harvest the crops and milk the cows. While they always look locally, farmers often turn to migrant workers who are willing to perform jobs that Americans choose not to take.

"Also, there is a fear that if workers have fraudulent documentation, the employees could be detained and deported at a moment’s notice. Losing that productivity can place the future of the family farm in jeopardy if the food is literally left to rot in the fields.  That too puts our local food supply at risk.
"Migrant labor is a critical component of our farmers’ ability to supply consumers with the food they want at a reasonable price. NY Farm Bureau has already seen some members scale back production or move to less labor intensive crops because of concerns they have about a lack of labor.

"By limiting the growth of our family farms, we also limit the growth of our rural economies. Immigration reform will help spur agricultural economic development throughout the state.

"There is still a long fight ahead in the U.S. House, but we remain hopeful that the importance of this issue for New York’s farmers and farm workers will be the incentive lawmakers need to do what is right,” Norton said.

Here is a statement from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack:

"Today's strong bipartisan vote in the U.S. Senate to fix America's broken immigration system is good news for farmers and ranchers, good news for farm workers, and good news for rural America.

"The Senate plan would ensure the stable agricultural workforce that U.S. producers need in order to remain competitive with other nations and maintain our abundant, affordable food supply. For millions of farm workers who today live in the shadows, it will provide an appropriate opportunity to earn legal status by contributing to America's agricultural economy.

"In addition to being a strongly pro-agriculture bill, the Senate plan would grow the U.S. economy, strengthen the Social Security system and reduce our deficit.

"Following today's strong bipartisan vote by the Senate, the House of Representatives must continue the momentum toward passage of comprehensive immigration reform as soon as possible."

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