For the Moment we have a Bill, we have Specifics; there will be Debate
The results were still being tabulated from last November’s elections, while pundits and advocates on both sides of the political spectrum were advancing the discussion of "comprehensive" immigration reform. Until the election, the focus was on border security and perhaps moving pieces of immigration reform.
That quickly changed - the discussion that is - but any congressional bill has taken until late April to come together.
When you have interest in legislative matters, you are always well advised to read the text of the actual language for yourself - relying on others to tell you what something says is no substitute for your own eyes and brain power. This might be a little different. The Senate bill introduced this week extends to almost 850 pages, so I know many of you do not have that kind of time. Still, you can filter through the bill and read those parts which have the greatest interest for you.
We have posted a copy of the bill and a summary of the agricultural portions on our website, Azfb.org. When you go to the home page of azfb.org look for the article link, “Summary of Ag Visa Program.”
In our summary we have tried to be as accurate as possible and provide bullets as opposed to editorials on what is in the bill. We are working to do the same for the entire bill, and you will soon notice that on our website as well.
There are some things worth noting. First of all, we now have actual language, not just speculation from the Senate. It is a hard thing to argue with something if there is no reference point. My mother used to joke that those who argued the most always knew the least about a topic, but in this case having the actual language is essential. Understand the House has its so-called “Gang of Eight” so there will be bill language in the House in one package or more than one bill.
The second key point is the agricultural portion was negotiated separately and then folded into the Senate bill. These negotiations have been long, hard and contentious. Let’s not stir the pot, let's just say the differences between the forces of labor and the forces of employers have been huge. In order to create something, both sides had to make considerable compromises. As you have often heard, moving policy forward means having compromises where all sides hate something.
The third key point is that agriculture in this country has been, for the most part, acting in a concerted and unified effort: the status quo is not acceptable, we need visa reform, in workable programs that work for all enterprises. We need efficient methods to access future work forces and we need renewable work authorizations for our current work force that is out of status.
We have achieved those things in this bill, these key areas. But implementation will come with some specifics - specifics that did not come from our wish list, and they will be the focal point of upcoming discussion.
And then beyond the agricultural discussions there will be larger discussion within the bill's framework as to pathways to citizenship for those out of status, border security triggers and interior enforcement.
We will do our best to ensure you have the information and answers to your questions along the way. For the moment we have a bill, we have specifics and there will be debate. And before we move forward please understand that among others, Farm Bureau people have been at the table throughout, so we have considerable insider reporting. The Senate bill is the best that can be achieved in the Senate at this particular time, and on balance it is an improvement over the status quo on immigration.