including Idaho, support a road map for citizenship.
The Idaho delegation's resistance
Naerebout said his prime objectives for immigration reform are addressed by the Senate bill, including:
- A visa program that would allow Mexican and other foreign nationals to work in U.S. dairies and other businesses, to provide for "future flows" of workers.
- An "earned legalization program so that ... all of our current employees would be able to gain citizenship over time."
The "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act" passed 68-32. Among the "nay" votes were Idaho's Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch. Crapo has called for changes in the nation's immigration policy but said that the bill fails to do enough to stop illegal immigration at the border and ensure fairness. Risch agreed that immigration-law changes are necessary but said the bill overreaches.
If enacted, the bill would allow immigrants without legal status to sign up for a new Registered Provisional Immigrant program almost immediately, but they could not apply to become lawful permanent residents until a series of enforcement measures, including 700 miles of border fencing and thousands of new officers to patrol the border, were in place. Special measures would make the permanent residency process quicker for young people who came to the U.S. as children and agriculture workers who meet specific provisions.
The bill will face roadblocks in the House after Congress reconvenes in September. Labrador opposes the bill and said this month that a tour of the U.S. border strengthened his belief that the measure's "border surge" of nearly 20,000 new federal officers is the wrong approach. Instead, he said, state and local police should join the federal government in enforcing federal immigration law.
Labrador, a former immigration lawyer, took part in the bipartisan House Gang of Eight efforts to shape a House immigration reform bill, but dropped out in June after clashing with other members over his contention that immigrants without legal status should be responsible for their own health care costs.
Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, a member of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, opposes amnesty and says "illegal immigrants mock those who respect our nation's sovereignty and legal immigration process."
Out of the shadows
Offering a path to legal residency to undocumented workers would give thousands of people more security and confidence, said Irma Morin, executive director of the Idaho Community Council, a Caldwell-based nonprofit that works mainly with migrant and seasonal farmworkers.
Many of the council's federally funded programs are available only to legal residents, she said. The council has no statistics on Idaho workers who aren't here legally, she said. Neither does the Idaho Department of Labor, a spokesman said.
"Of the people I've spoken to, I estimate 65 percent want to become citizens, and the others want to make a difference and be here," Morin said. "They say, 'We just want to be legal -- that's our concern.'"
Naerebout, of the Dairymen's Association, tells a story of one Idaho dairy worker who said he and his wife avoided going out together, because if one was picked up by immigration authorities, they wanted to make sure the other could stay in Idaho to care for their children.
"They're not immersed in society, and that's not good for society as a whole," he said. "It's important to remember how important the immigrant labor force is to the economy of Idaho."
Kristin Rodine: 377-6447
(c)2013 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)
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