Jon Baselice, right, director of immigration policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., discusses the state of efforts to develop an immigration reform package in Congress during the Fresno Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs & Issues event this morning at Pardini's Catering & Banquets restaurant in north Fresno. He's onstage with Nathan Ahle, middle, president and CEO of the chamber, and Jamie Xiong-Vang, a Fresno attorney specializing in immigration law. Photo by David Castellon

published on May 25, 2018 - 2:41 PM
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Members of Congress are working on immigration reform and even have some bills in the works.

“Am I bullish we’re going to get something done? No. I wouldn’t bet the farm,” Jon Baselice told the audience attending the Fresno Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs & Issues event this morning at Pardini’s Catering & Banquets restaurant in north Fresno.

Baselice, director of immigration policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington D.C., was one of two speakers there to discuss immigration. He noted that the latest version of the Dream Act introduced in the House previously had support from both Republicans and Democrats, “but the way the immigration debate has evolved or devolved — depending on how you look at it — it’s no longer something that has real bipartisan support.”

In response to the initial failure of the Dream Act in the legislature, President Barack Obama in 2012 issued a presidential order to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to give a temporary reprieve to some people brought into the U.S. as children from being deported while also allowing them to work here legally while they try to establish legal status here.

But in April, President Donald Trump announced “NO MORE DACA DEAL” and directed House Republicans to pass tough anti-immigration legislation, the Washington Post reports.

“At the other end, you’ve got Bob Goodlate’s [R-Va.] ‘Securing America’s Future Act,’ which does an awful lot,” but Baselice said that without some important revisions, it would take a hatchet to the American immigration system and would reduce the number of green cards available to immigrants.

He also noted that Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act, introduced in January reportedly would protect DACA recipients from deportation while enhancing border security.

While it’s possible the Republican leaders could wrangle moderates and work out an immigration package that could get voted on by House members and passed, Baselice said, “There is a bipartisan solution out there. I don’t see happening any time soon. I don’t see it happening before election day.”

On the other hand, Congress may have a good shot at passing an immigration package during its “lame duck” session – after the November elections and before the new congressional session begins in January, when some House members leave and new ones who won their elections take their places, he noted.

“It’s an opportunity we have to get something done, and a lot of that is going to depend on how the elections go.”

“But if there’s one thing the president said during his campaign was, ‘I like to be unpredictable.’ It’s possible you get a deal where there is some permanent legislative relief, whether that includes a path to citizenship for dreamers, or a certain subset of dreamers or actual DACA recipients or anyone who could have been eligible for DACA,” Baselice said, adding, “You know, those are details only congressmen can decide.”

When asked if any of the bills in the works addressed the issue of providing programs for unskilled and low-skilled laborers to work on farms and other trades in the U.S., Baselice noted the omnibus spending bill that Congress approved in March allowed the Trump administration to nearly double the number of H-2B visas – nearly 66,000 — available for companies to hire temporary foreign workers.

While that may be good news for landscapers, construction contractors and other businesses that use H-2A, it will have no effect on visas for farm laborers, Baselice said. Farm laborers fall under the government’s H-2A visa program.

Whatever immigration package that Congress may one day pass, Baselice told the crowd it likely will be a tough road.

“But we’re not going to stop pushing for something, because it needs to happen. The sad thing is, it’s there. It’s there, and people want to take it. There are enough people on both sides of the aisle that see it, I think, as something to run on.”

Baselice said that as he sees it, legislators on all sides of immigration issues need to be willing to compromise – giving up some of the things they want.

“It’s not impossible, and the people who can make a difference are sitting in this room,” Baselice said, urging the crowd of mostly business people to communicate with their representatives and do whatever else they can to convince them to take action on immigration.

“When they hear it from the people back home who vote for them, who support them, who knock on doors for them in the next few months, that’s what makes a difference.”

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