WASHINGTON, March 28, 2013 – Congress could approve a comprehensive immigration reform package - possibly containing a revised guest worker program – this year, but it is considered a “tall order,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said today.
Speaking on Fox News, Cantor said there was a “lot of interest” to arrive at legislation that both parties could accept, but that any comprehensive package would be “tough to come by.”
Still, Cantor expressed some optimism.
“In some way, I believe we can work together to do something on this matter,” he said.
Cantor spoke as lawmakers in both chambers continue to discuss ways to move the issue forward and as the topic has gained traction in Washington. A large group of senators and representatives have been meeting largely behind closed doors in efforts to secure some kind of deal.
President Obama has said he expects the Senate to begin debate on a bill in April.
The main battle points are likely to be the same as always: amnesty and border security. The agriculture sector will be focused on whether the legislation would help increase the legality of its large seasonal work force, many of whom are undocumented and do not pay taxes.
Earlier this week, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Bob Stallman weighed in on the issue.
Stallman said an immigration reform bill is “not on the fast track,” but that delays are “normal for a contentious issue.”
“I just view it that it’s farther along than we’ve been in a long time, and the environment is better than in the last ten years,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve stopped making progress.”
AFBF is part of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, which Stallman said is behind the scenes “trying to get our priorities crafted into legislative language.” He said he is encouraged that “we’re making process.”
He clarified that, “We’re working in the context of comprehensive immigration reform and having the agriculture piece embedded in that.”
Stallman said the two biggest, and most contentious, issues for agriculture are the caps on the number of guest workers allowed into the country in a given amount of time as well as setting a wage rate in the visa program.
As for a “grand deal,” Cantor said that he believes an agreement could be reached at least over children brought illegally to the United States. Obama announced last year that the administration would no longer seek to deport against those who illegally immigrated as children.
“We’ve got an opportunity to come together on one point, and that is the kids. If a kid was brought here by his parents or her parents, unbeknownst to them, and know no other place than home, than America as home, why wouldn’t we want to give them a path to citizenship, and I think we should,” Cantor said.
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