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Immigration Reform “Office Hours” Week Six

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Today, America’s Voice Education Fund and fellow immigration experts held the sixth in a series of weekly press briefings, or Immigration Reform “Office Hours.”  Each week, a different and diverse group of speakers shares the latest information on the players, politics, legislation and other developments in the debate in Washington and around the nation.

Moderated by Frank Sharry, Executive Director at America’s Voice Education Fund, today’s call featured Matt Barreto, Principal at Latino Decisions and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington; Evelyn Rivera, National Coordinating Committee-Southeast Region, United We DREAM; and Giev Kashkooli, Political/Legislative Director and 3rd Vice President at United Farm Workers.

Speakers analyzed among other things the negotiations between growers and farm workers as well as Sen. Marco Rubio’s latest political moves on immigration, including his recent letter to Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy in which he echoed Jeff Sessions’ and Charles Grassley’s concern that the immigration reform process may be moving too quickly.

“The immigrant youth movement is looking to Rubio to lead for our whole community and if he wants to be part of the problem rather than the solution we won’t let him off the hook. Our broken immigration system took my mom away from our family, and too many other families have faced the same heartbreak of separation.  He can’t delay, he has to lead, I expect him to lead– our families can’t wait any longer,” said Evelyn Rivera, a DREAMer from Altamonte Springs, Fla. and the Southeast Region representative to United We Dream’s National Coordinating Committee.

The benefits of passing immigration reform for Rubio and the Republican Party are clear, as are the risks if they fail.  Matt Barreto, Principal at Latino Decisions and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington said “Latino voters currently rate immigration reform as the number one priority for Congress to address, and now the Latino community is watching to see if Congress will make good on their repeated promises.  If immigration reform fails, the data shows quite clearly who will get the blame. By a 4-to-1 margin, Latino voters say Republicans will be to blame.  However, if the Republicans get this right they can make large gains with Latinos, as 44% of Latino voters say they are more likely to vote Republican in the future if the GOP takes the lead on a path to citizenship.”

What’s more, immigration reform is gaining support from other voters as well.  Last week, Resurgent Republic, a Republican-allied public opinion research group released findings of four immigration focus groups conducted with Republican voters in the early 2016 caucus/primary states of Iowa and South Carolina.  They found that “[a] pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is acceptable to Republican primary voters if it is an earned process and fair to those who are already legally in the system.”

Of course, there are still some last and important details to be worked out—including a concern by agribusiness that we may actually be paying farmworkers too much to work in the hot sun and help supply our country with healthy, nutritious food.  This week there were reports that negotiations between farm workers and growers have run into a disagreement over wages.  Giev Kashkooli, Political/Legislative Director and 3rd Vice President at United Farm Workers, said “An agreement has been difficult to get to because many grower associations have tried to erode any progress farm workers have made.  Grower associations are insisting to Congress that farm workers are currently paid too much.  They seek to reduce the wages currently paid to H2A workers and put in place a wage for new agricultural visa holders lower than what current farm workers make.  Agribusiness lobby power has kept farm workers excluded from every major labor law for decades.  It would be a grievous mistake to allow agribusiness to use the debate over immigration reform to further reduce wages of the poorest workers in the country.”

Frank Sharry, Executive Director, America’s Voice Education Fund said “Every day momentum and pressure builds, and we are quite optimistic that we will get to a result on immigration reform this year.  There has been a tectonic shift in the politics of immigration and the way legislators in Washington view the issue.  There is broad and diverse support for the key elements of immigration reform, including for a path to citizenship, and the Senate seems to be heading towards a bill released in mid-April.  Things need to keep moving forward.  Agribusiness should negotiate in good faith with the bipartisan Senate ‘Gang of 8’ and stop trying to reduce the wages of the poorest workers in America.  And Senator Rubio should stand firmly on the side of moving with both speed and care in this upcoming debate so that we produce a result.  The American people in general and the Latino community in particular want a whole lot more than effort.  They want a once and for all solution.”

For recordings and resources from prior Office Hours calls, click here.


NYT Report: House immigration Bill Is Said to Offer 3 Paths: The bill is said to have 3 potential paths to citizenship: 1. For DREAMers and agricultural workers 2. For those who have family members that are US citizen or qualify based on employment 3. Those who accept that they violated the law, pay back taxes, a fine and learn English. This last group would have to wait 10 years for a permanent residency but wouldn’t have to leave the country.


America’s Voice Education Fund — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform