WH releases report on immigration legislation's effects on farming

July 29, 2013 at 4:14 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 29 (UPI) -- As the House debates incremental immigration reform, the White House issued a report on the agricultural economic benefits of a sweeping Senate-passed bill.

The report, "Fixing Our Broken Immigration System: The Economic Benefits to Agriculture and Rural Communities," focuses on earnings in farm income and agriculture exports, which the White House says could expand if the agriculture industry could have greater access to qualified, willing workers.

"The agriculture industry is hampered by a broken immigration system that fails to support a predictable and stable workforce," the White House said in a release.

Agricultural producers cite difficulty in locating qualified, available, authorized workers as a reason for the high rate of undocumented labor, the report said.

"By providing a path to earned citizenship for currently unauthorized farm workers, the bipartisan Senate bill gives unauthorized workers and their families the security they need to invest in their own skills and education and pursue higher-paying employment," the White House said.

The Senate-passed bill would strengthen border security, provide a path to citizenship for undocumented farm workers and create a new temporary worker program negotiated by major grower associations and farm worker groups.

If the Senate version were enacted, it would allow estimated 1.5 million agricultural workers and their families to earn legal status, after agreeing to pay a fine and back taxes, the administration report said.

The report cited an economic analysis by the Regional Economic Models Inc. that said an expanded H-2A visa program, such as the program found provisions in the bipartisan Senate bill, would raise the gross domestic product by about $2 billion in 2014 and $9.79 billion in 2045.

House Republican leaders said they hope to consider immigration reform through a series of bills that address issues such as border control and a path to citizenship for children brought to the United States when their parents illegally entered the country.

However, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he won't consider immigration legislation unless a majority of the Republican caucus backs it, which could be problematic because conservatives have expressed antipathy for legislation that would allow a path to citizenship.

The White House called on House leaders "to act to fix the broken immigration system" that would require responsibility from workers in the country illegally and the people who hire them and would guarantee "everyone is playing by the same rules."

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