Senators Release Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

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AMERICAN HORSE COUNCIL — JAN. 29, 2013 — This week a bipartisan group of senators made up of Senators Schumer (D-NY), McCain (R-AZ), Graham (R-SC), Menendez (D-NJ), Rubio (R-FL), Bennet (D-CO), and Flake (R-AZ), released a framework for comprehension immigration reform. Legislation based on this framework will likely be introduced sometime in the next couple of months.

Comprehensive immigration reform has been a priority of the horse industry for many years. The difficulty horse farms, horse shows, trainers and others have had recruiting American workers has forced many to rely on foreign workers and utilize both the H-2B and H-2A temporary foreign worker programs to meet their labor needs. However, the current system is not reliable and is extremely burdensome to use. A comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. immigration system is needed and could finally fix the immigration issues facing the horse industry and all of American agricultural.

According to the framework, the bill that is eventually introduced will increase border security, provide a path for unauthorized immigrants to remain in the country and eventually apply for citizenship, implement an employment verification system, and fix current or create new temporary worker programs, including a new more workable program for agriculture. A bill based on this framework could be beneficial to the horse industry. Workers who currently lack documentation would receive some form of legal status and would have the ability to continue working. And the H-2B and H-2A programs would either be fixed or replaced. Reforms such as these would allow employers to keep the workers they have now and ensure they will be able to hire guest workers in the future if they cannot find enough American workers.

The details of any bill that is eventually introduced and debated will be very important. However, this is an important first step to addressing the immigration issues facing the horse industry and the country. It is likely that any legislation that ultimately moves forward in the Congressional process will be based on this framework.

The AHC will be watching this process closely and working to make sure any final bill deals with the needs of horse farms, horse shows, trainers and the entire horse industry.