Today, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein will be assuring a San Joaquin Valley audience that Congress will once more take up a big agricultural guest-worker bill. A top priority for Valley farmers, the bill soon could resurface on Capitol Hill.What would AgJobs entail (e.a.)?
The agricultural guest-worker package is getting its second wind two months after comprehensive immigration reform collapsed in the Senate. It still faces very steep odds. However, political optimists can sketch out a scenario for snatching success from seeming defeat.
Dubbed AgJobs, the legislation first introduced in September 2003 culminated years of negotiations among farmers and the United Farm Workers. It would offer legal residency, and eventually U.S. citizenship, to 1.5 million illegal immigrants now working in agriculture. It also would streamline an existing guest-worker program.
The first tactic to push this bill--emphasize the need for its passage:
Step one in the plan for passage calls for farmers and their allies to emphasize anew the dangers of losing an agricultural work force.
It seems as though Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) has promised to do "everything" he can to pass this proposal (or at least make sure that "something" is "done" about it)(e.a.):
Step two relies on the latest promise by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that he will help pass an agricultural guest-worker bill this year. With Senate floor time limited, and the legislative calendar running out, a commitment like this becomes essential.
"I am committed to doing something about AgJobs," Reid declared in late July, in response to Feinstein's questions. "I hope we can do something soon."
Revealing one potential but controversial new tactic, Reid specified he "will do everything" he can to include the agricultural guest-worker package as part of a larger farm bill. The House already has passed its version of a farm bill, without immigration provisions.
If the farm bill doesn't work out as a vehicle, Reid added, he will try to bring up the 109-page agricultural guest-worker bill as a "freestanding" bill or perhaps attach it to something else.
The push for AgJobs will also attempt to use the administration's new rules for worker verification as a way of pressuring for passage of this measure (e.a.):
Step three in the AgJobs game plan relies on employer anxiety over a new Bush administration plan for cracking down on companies that hire illegal immigrants. Two weeks ago, the White House announced plans to send out tens of thousands of so-called "no-match" letters.
These letters will notify employers that an employee's name and Social Security number don't match government records. Potentially, employers could be fined for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. More than one agricultural lobbyist believes the White House hopes that angry business leaders will now lean on Congress to change the immigration laws.
This story says that 30 senators currently co-sponsor AgJobs. Will they be enough to ensure its passage?
So will this measure be attached to the farm bill? Will Sen. Harkin (D-IA), chair of the agricultural committee, want that? Some reports suggest he might be a little skeptical. Will Reid have convinced him to be open to this measure? Could we be seeing the start of another immigration battle in the Senate?