The Trump administration’s decision to enforce federal policies that result in the separation of children and parents who enter the U.S. illegally — and the ensuing outcry from the public, Democrats and members of the Republican party — has intensified an already heated debate over immigration reform.
President Trump signed an executive order to allow those children to stay with their parents after they are apprehended. However, there is concern that an executive order may not be able to change the policy because it may violate a 1997 order and subsequent decisions. As a result, legislation may be required to do so.
In a meeting with House Republicans, the president reportedly told lawmakers that he is behind the immigration bills that Republican leaders would bring to the floor “1,000 percent.”
One of the bills was defeated two days later on a vote of 193 to 231. The bill was introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and was considered the “conservative” preference that included considerable enforcement provisions. It was largely the same as legislation he introduced earlier which was noted in the February 15, 2018 Week In Review.
Following the defeat of the first bill, Republican leaders delayed the vote on the second bill which was considered a compromise between conservative and moderate Republicans.
The current situation and the impassioned attention it has generated only reinforce the Society of American Florists’ long-held position that the country’s broken immigration system must be reformed, said Shawn McBurney, SAF’s senior director of government relations.
“For decades, SAF has been on the forefront of pushing for reform to our immigration system that will ensure access to a reliable and stable workforce,” McBurney said. “The issue has been one of the most polarizing and intractable issues ever considered by Congress.”
SAF has long emphasized that the American economy requires a dependable guest-worker program. During the group’s Congressional Action Days in March, SAF members met with their representatives in Congress to discuss the importance of reform and to urge them not to impose stand-alone mandatory E-Verify legislation.
“Agriculture in particular faces a critical lack of workers,” McBurney said. “Few Americans apply for labor-intensive, and often seasonal, jobs. The problem is even more acute in a healthy economy with a historically low unemployment rate.”
President Trump came to office promising to secure America’s borders and enforce existing immigration laws. Since that time, the administration has taken several steps toward those ends, including a recent raid by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at an Ohio landscaper and garden center, an SAF member.
The president also ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that was initiated by the Obama Administration. In a clash over the future of that program and the individuals impacted by it, the federal government was shut down.
The government was reopened only after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) promised Senate Democrats that he would schedule votes on the issue after they agreed to vote to open the government again. The Senate considered the issue which ended in no resolution to either DACA specifically or immigration in general.
With critical midterm elections coming up in November, it is highly unlikely any substantive reform to immigration laws will be passed. Nonetheless, “SAF will continue to be a voice for the industry year-round on Capitol Hill, pushing for immigration reform, because we know that is what our members need and what our country deserves,” said McBurney.