As Congress returns to work this week, the Farm Bill will be at the top of the Senate’s legislative list, but work is also continuing on an immigration reform package which is just as important to agriculture as the Farm Bill. The immigration reform package that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last month contains a provision that would provide a way for current agricultural workers to become documented employees. The program has been endorsed by both farm and labor groups. Indiana Governor Mike Pence says immigration reform is important for the Hoosier Ag economy, “I still think it is possible to obtain immigration reform that meets the needs of our economy especially our agricultural economy, but I hope we can achieve that in a way that confirms our commitment to border security and the rule of law.”
Pence supports a guest worker program, but says border integrity is also important, “Hoosiers, like most Americans, are very open to a 21st century guest worker program that meets the needs of our economy both in the cities and on the farm.” Pence told HAT people will support such a program if it adheres to the rule of law.
Megan Ritter with Indiana Farm Bureau says, after decades of neglect, immigration policy is finally getting some serious attention in Washington, “Immigration reform has more momentum in Washington than we have had in a long time.” She is optimistic the legislation will continue to move forward and that the agricultural component will remain intact, “There is a recognition that immigration reform without an agricultural package is no reform at all.” She told HAT it is possible that reform legislation will pass Congress by the end of the year.
But immigration reform faces an uphill battle, especially among Republicans. According to the Post-ABC poll, 37 percent of Republicans say voting for a path to citizenship is a deal-breaker for them, while 12 percent say voting against it is a deal-breaker. The Q poll, similarly, shows that 36 percent of Republicans would be less likely to support someone who votes for a path to citizenship, while 15 percent would be more likely. In addition, more than two-thirds of Americans don’t believe that Congress will be able to work together to pass immigration reform, according to a poll released Friday.
The Senate will begin considering the an immigration proposal this month, which calls for stricter border security measures and a 13-year path to citizenship plan for people who entered the United States illegally before 2012. The legislation faces an uphill battle in the House.