By Jason Huffman
May 10, 2017
When Sen. Dianne Feinstein rolled out word on Tuesday of a forthcoming House version of her new “blue card” farm worker immigration bill — Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) will do the honors — she drew a comparison to the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform measure she helped negotiate in 2013. That bill cleared the Senate by a margin of 68-32. Her blue card bill, she said in a phoner with reporters, resurrects the blue-card aspect of the earlier legislation — the one part of that failed effort that “everyone agreed to.”
The first caveat is that neither Feinstein’s measure nor the one Gutiérrez has promised to introduce “in the next week” has a GOP co-sponsor. But what Feinstein did not mention is that her bill doesn’t include the part of the 2013 measure that ag interests fought for back then and still want today: a visa program that would allow several hundred thousand new legal immigrants to be brought into the U.S., to ease the agricultural worker shortage. Feinstein’s Agricultural Worker Program Act (S. 1034) would allow qualifying workers to earn a blue card and, in time, become eligible to adjust to a green card or legal permanent residency.
‘Missing wheel’: MA spoke to reps from several prominent agricultural groups, and while no one wanted to go on the record at such an early stage, it was clear that future negotiations could depend heavily on a visa program and enforcement provisions sought by Republicans. “A bicycle needs both wheels,” one industry group source said. “This is missing a wheel.”
Gutiérrez, who took part in the conference call Tuesday, said undocumented immigrants whose labors are integral to American agricultural output should not be treated “as outsiders.” Feinstein’s bill, which has four co-sponsors in the Senate, all Democrats, would help to calm the nerves of many undocumented farm workers who have been rattled by stepped-up federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids under the Trump administration, he said.
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