Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Chambliss, Isakson Urge Democratic Leader to Strip Agricultural Worker Provisions from Emergency War Supplemental Bill

U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today, along with eight other Republican senators, sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urging the removal of language that would grant legal status to over 1 million illegal agriculture workers and their families in the emergency war supplemental spending bill.

“A bill to provide funding for our servicemen and women should not be bogged down by a debate over immigration policy,” said Chambliss. “I strongly disagree that this amendment would serve to provide stability in the agricultural industry and would in fact harm U.S. farmers and ranchers and U.S. workers. Nobody is more interested in the well-being of American agriculture than me, and this proposal is simply the wrong policy at the wrong time.”

“There’s no greater domestic issue in this country than illegal immigration, and the American people will not stand for this attempt to grant amnesty on a bill designed to give our soldiers the resources they need in the War on Terror,” Isakson said. “The war supplemental is not only the wrong vehicle to deal with this issue but I firmly believe this is absolutely the wrong approach in regards to agricultural workers.”

On May 15, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment to the emergency war supplemental spending bill that would give a five-year visa to 1.35 million workers plus their spouses and dependent children to live and work in the United States. For almost all legal purposes, the amendment requires that the illegal aliens who qualify for the proposed visa be treated as lawful permanent residents. Illegal aliens would qualify for the proposed five-year visa by proving they have performed agricultural employment for 863 hours or 150 work days or earned $7,000 from agricultural employment over the course of a four-year period. Once granted the proposed five-year visa, the illegal aliens would be authorized to work in any job other than agriculture-related jobs for the rest of the year and would be treated as U.S. workers for hiring purposes.

Adding the amendment to the appropriations bill also violates Senate rules because it legislates on an appropriations bill. As such, it will be subject to a point of order on the floor and 60 votes will be needed to keep this language in the bill. Chambliss and Isakson strongly oppose the amendment and will vote against it.

The text of the letter to Senator Reid is below. The letter was also signed by Senators Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, David Vitter, R-Louisiana, Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, Elizabeth Dole, R-North Carolina, and Jim Bunning, R-Kentucky.

May 20, 2008

The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington D.C. 20510

Dear Majority Leader Reid:

We write to express disappointment that the Senate Appropriations Committee chose to include in the War Supplemental more than 100 pages of immigration language that would grant legal status to more than one million illegal alien agriculture workers and their families. We urge you to remove these controversial provisions from the bill so we can enact essential funding for our troops without delay. If these provisions remain in the bill, you can expect a vigorous debate on immigration policy.

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