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Bipartisan Group Works To Craft Immigration Legislation

Immigration reform deal expected next week when Congress returns from break

Published on: Apr 3, 2013

A bipartisan group of eight Senators is working to overhaul immigration legislation and present the plan after the spring recess, a proposition receiving support from farm worker coalitions and interest groups.

The legislation is expected to address border security proposals, work visa programs and interior enforcement – all policies that are on the radar for farm groups, agricultural workers and their employers.

On Easter, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the group – what has been dubbed the "gang of eight" – was continuing negotiations, and has made substantial progress in crafting new legislation.

"I believe we will be able to agree on a legislative proposal that modernizes our legal immigration system, improves border security and enforcement and allows those here illegally to earn the chance to one day apply for permanent residency contingent upon certain triggers being met," Rubio said. "However, that legislation will only be a starting point."

Immigration reform deal expected next week when Congress returns from break
Immigration reform deal expected next week when Congress returns from break

Rubio's stance calls for strong public debate, committee hearings and discussion and amendments from other Senators to improve legislation the "gang of eight" may submit.

"Eight senators from seven states have worked on this bill to serve as a starting point for discussion about fixing our broken immigration system, Rubio noted, "but arriving at a final product will require it to be properly submitted for the American people's consideration, through the other 92 senators from 43 states that weren't part of this initial drafting process. In order to succeed, this process cannot be rushed or done in secret."

Rubio Saturday sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., expressing his wishes to ensure transparent negotiations, and call for immediate consideration and negotiation on any framework presented after the break.

Leahy reiterated in his response letter to Rubio Tuesday that addressing the legislation was still a priority.

 "As soon as we have comprehensive immigration legislation to review, I will consider scheduling a hearing, in consultation with Senator Grassley, the Ranking Republican on Committee, and Senator Schumer, the Immigration Subcommittee Chair, to examine that proposal.

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"I am hopeful you recognize, as I do, that if we do not act quickly and decisively we will lose the opportunity we now have to fix our immigration system," Leahy added. "Those who have been committed to this effort for decades are counting on us and expect the Senate to act thoughtfully and without further delay."

United Farm Workers joins in

Several groups have taken note of the legislators' call to action on reform. The United Farm Workers Monday announced that more than 100 members of the coalition will head to Washington, D.C., April 7 to lobby in support of the immigration reform talks.

The delegation, comprised of farm workers and their families will represent California, Washington, Oregon, Florida, New Jersey, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, Ohio and Minnesota.

The UFW has been working with Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Marco Rubio to ensure Congress approves the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act or includes language that addresses farm workers needs as part of any immigration reform legislation.

UFW says the bill would give professional farm workers presently in the U.S. the right to earn legal status by continuing to work in agriculture.

The Agricultural Workforce Coalition is also behind a push for immigration reform, sending a letter to House and Senate leaders earlier this year calling for a renewed effort to support a strong agricultural workforce.

The letter called for work authorizations for experienced ag workers in the short term, as well as a new visa program for long term employment. It is estimated that more than 11 million undocumented workers are currently living in the U.S.

The Senate will reconvene April 8 at 2 p.m. ET.