June 29, 2007
June 29, 2007 - The Senate voted down a comprehensive immigration reform bill, most likely postponing future efforts until after the 2008 elections. Supporters fell 14 votes short of the 60 needed for cloture. The vote was 46 to 53 in favor of limiting the debate.
The bill contained an overhaul of the 50-year-old H-2A agricultural worker program and a tough earned legalization program for experienced farm workers. It was strongly favored by American agriculture and seen by most in and beyond agriculture as the best way to accomplish the intertwined goals of border security, a credible employment eligibility verification program and access to a legal and stable workforce.
President Bush made a last-ditch bid to save the bill by calling Senators early Thursday morning to urge their support. Republican conservatives led the opposition, contending the government must secure the borders before allowing millions of illegal immigrants a path to legal status. Supporters of the bill claimed border security and accommodating illegal immigrants must go together.
During the past several years, U.S. farmers and ranchers, through the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR), have sought reform of the H-2A temporary and seasonal alien agricultural worker program and adjustment of status legislation for experienced farm workers. After several years of congressional testimony before both the Senate and House Immigration Subcommittees, there is bipartisan recognition that there is a shortage of legal agricultural workers in the United States and the current H-2A program needs substantial reform before most agricultural employers can effectively use it. ACIR and other major agricultural organizations have worked on a bipartisan basis to establish an affordable and efficient labor system for U.S. agriculture.