The U.S. House of Representatives rejected the Republican-backed immigration bill June 27. Over the past two weeks, two bills have failed to garner the votes needed to pass the House. This bill was the more promising of the two for horticultural interests, as a House leadership-supported compromise bill that principally sought DACA relief and enforcement enhancements. It also briefly included a potential amendment that would have expanded e-Verify and introduced a new guest worker program. However, that amendment was scrapped before the vote.
According to CNN, the bill failed by wider margins than expected – 121-301 – and had far less Republican support than the more conservative bill that failed last week.
The bill represented House Republicans’ effort to find a compromise between moderates and conservatives. It was drafted without Democratic input or support. The legislation would have provided a path to citizenship for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as well as $25 billion for border security, including the President’s border wall.
After the bill was voted down, AmericanHort expressed disappointment that the House has failed to advance meaningful immigration reform and thanked several members of Congress for their efforts to improve, and include in the compromise, provisions intended to address agriculture’s need for a legally authorized workforce and an improved worker visa option. Among those members were Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), and Dan Newhouse (R-WA), who secured significant improvements to the proposed new agricultural visa program.
In addition, Congressional supporters cognizant of the needs of the horticulture industry’s seasonal employers, particularly in the landscape sector, pushed hard to add an H-2B program returning worker exemption provision to the compromise package. Ultimately, the amendment carrying these labor relief provisions was not included in the bill, as support for the compromise package itself faltered due to political dynamics beyond these specific provisions. The compromise legislation’s failure on the House floor jeopardized an opportunity to advance the legislative process and bring the industry a step closer to reform. But Craig Regelbrugge, AmericanHort senior vice president for advocacy and research, still sees a way forward.
“We continue to believe that there is significant support in Congress for addressing the untenable labor situation facing agricultural and seasonal employers,” Regelbrugge said. “We urge House leadership to allow consideration of legislative proposals specifically intended to resolve this issue.”