WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2014 - The incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, said today that he intends to take up an immigration bill to address the need for farmworkers in agriculture.

However, Grassley said he’ll wait to see whether the House acts on immigration legislation of its own before bringing bills out of his committee.

His House counterpart, Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., has told Grassley that he expects to act on the issue fairly early in the new Congress.

“At this point it’s my posture to wait for House legislation so that we don’t waste a lot of time in the Senate passing a bill that might not come up in the house. If they act we’ll be ready to move,” Grassley told reporters.

He said his committee would follow the strategy that the House leaders pursued in the 113th Congress and move immigration legislation in separate pieces rather than as the broad bill, S. 744, that the Democratic-controlled Senate passed in 2013.

Grassley indicated his priorities would be bills addressing issues such as agricultural workers and the H-1B visa program for highly skilled immigrants.

"Quite frankly, I feel we have a chance of getting those passed if we can convince 60 members of the United States Senate that we ought to pass immigration bills,” Grassley said.

It’s not clear how the piecemeal approach, which would presumably exclude a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, would appeal to Democrats or President Obama. Plus, for many Republicans the priority immigration issue is to block the president’s move to ease deportations, not to address business concerns about the supply of immigrant workers.

The Senate-passed bill reflected a broad compromise among disparate interest groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation and the United Farm Workers. UFW strongly opposed Goodlatte's standalone House bill, HR 1773, that the group said would have cut farmworker pay, among other things.

Grassley said he would not make a final decision about how to proceed on immigration until he finishes meeting with all of the committee members.

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