Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Immigration reform talks partly driven by farm lobby

Republicans are reconsidering their stance on immigration reform following the presidential election, in which 71 percent of Latinos voted for President Obama. The Census Bureau estimated there were more than 10.8 million undocumented immigrants living in the country in 2010, and more than half of those were Mexican. The push for reform is in part being driven by the farm lobby, many of whose members rely on immigrant workers.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman, right, said immigration-reform talks between congressional leaders and the Obama administration could provide a "'crack in the window of opportunity' for ag worker programs and other reforms the farm lobby wants," Agri-Pulse reports. The AFBF opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants, but supports giving some undocumented people who've worked in agriculture an avenue toward legal status. It also wants Congress to improve the federal H-2A visa program for foreign workers, heavily used by agriculture.

Republican leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner, are taking note of the farm lobby's call to action, and of the fact that Hispanics are the fastest-growing minority in the U.S. Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he and Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., are trying to continue a compromise on immigration reform, noting the importance of a strong guest-worker program. Graham said the immigration debate within the Republican Party has alienated Hispanic voters "because of tone and rhetoric," and it's "an odd formula for a party to adopt," since the party is losing votes every election cycle because of it. "It has to stop. It’s one thing to shoot yourself in the foot; just don’t reload the gun," Graham said.

Agri-Pulse is available by subscription-only, but a four-week free trial can be accessed here.

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