Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, L. A. Times, Mar. 25
WASHINGTON — Now that President Bush’s immigration reform plan seems dead for this year, a less ambitious proposal to offer about 500,000 undocumented farmworkers legal residency is taking on a life of its own.
The so-called AgJobs bill, which also would make it easier for growers to import foreign guest workers, has 55 co-sponsors — including Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) — in the 100-member Senate, its authors said Wednesday.
Sens. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said they hoped in the next few weeks to increase that number to more than 60. That would give the bill enough support to overcome delaying tactics on the Senate floor and force a vote on its passage.
“We are on target and on course toward passage of this bill,” said Craig, adding that its supporters were almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.
“Congress can and should pass a significant immigration reform bill this year,” he said.
The compromise legislation, introduced in September, resulted from years of negotiations among growers, farmworker unions, Latino advocacy groups and business organizations.
While it would streamline procedures for growers to recruit guest workers from abroad, the bill also would provide a route for those already here to obtain green cards for U.S. permanent residency. In addition, it would set minimum workplace standards.
In the House, however, the outlook is not rosy. The chairman of the Agriculture Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), is opposed to AgJobs; and several influential Republicans want to tighten controls on immigration.
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