A project of the Center for Community Change

What can we do about AgJobs and DREAM?

Two separate pieces of legislation were incorporated into the compromise bill: AgJobs and the DREAM Act. Senators have already begun to focus their eyes on AgJobs:

From USAToday, yesterday:

WASHINGTON — The business community is already pushing to resurrect portions of a wide-ranging immigration bill that died in the Senate last week.

Among the priorities for business are provisions to allow more highly skilled workers into the country each year and expand programs for farm workers

“We’re going to have to go back and see how many things from the bill we can pull out and get fixes,” says Angelo Amador, director of immigration policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who also said his group would push to give undocumented students who have been raised in the USA a chance to earn legal status and finish their education.

“At the very least a fix for a year or two while we work on comprehensive reform is needed,” Amador said.

Amador added that businesses face increasing immigration raids and new legislation at the state and local levels.

It’s not clear how eager lawmakers will be to dive back into the controversial issue, though Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has indicated a willingness to consider parts of the bill separately. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, said the House should “take stock of the situation to determine whether anything can be done to improve the current unsatisfactory system.”

The Senate failed to muster the 60 votes needed to end debate on the immigration measure. It would have given a path to citizenship for an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants now in the USA, tightened workplace enforcement and border security and allowed more temporary workers.

With the bill apparently dead, the technology industry will back a more targeted measure increasing the number of annual H1B visas for highly skilled workers. The visas are issued for up to three years but can be extended. The bill would have raised the current cap of 65,000 to as many as 130,000. The industry now will push for an annual level as high as 195,000 annual visas — a number allowed several years ago.

“We’ve got a lot of companies who want to create a lot of new jobs and keep a lot of good people in the country,” says Ralph Hellmann, a senior vice president of the Information Technology Industry Council.

The American Farm Bureau Federation will continue pushing for a farm worker program, probably more expansive than the one in the failed bill. That program provided a path to legalization for about 1 million current agricultural workers and made it easier to use a guest worker program.

“It’s an issue we’ve been working on for a long time … we’re not going to stop,” says Paul Schlegel, director of public policy for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

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