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Senate Fails to Pass Immigration Bill, Including the Provisions for the Horse Industry

Comprehensive immigration reform legislation returned to the Senate floor this week, but only for a short time. An attempt to cut-off debate, called cloture, on the controversial measure and move to a final vote failed when only 46 Senators voted for this action. 60 votes were needed.

"In the end, there was just too much controversy and public opposition to the bi-partisan compromise crafted by the White House and both Democratic and Republican Senators," said Jay Hickey, President of the American Horse Council, (AHC) which supported the legislation. "Obviously, it was not a perfect bill, but there were provisions in it that would have benefited the horse industry, which relies on foreign workers on its farms, ranches, racetracks, shows and similar facilities."

The Senate bill prompted a torrent of calls to Senate offices, so many that it was reported that the Capitol phone system had to be closed down. Most of the calls were in opposition to the bill.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had threatened before the vote to pull the bill from the floor, for a second time, if the cloture vote failed. Earlier this month Senator Reid moved off immigration legislation when a similar cloture vote failed. He followed through on his promise later in the day when he moved on to other legislation, effectively killing the bill for the foreseeable future, if not for this entire Congress.

"The House has been waiting to see what the Senate would do with immigration reform. Now that the bill has failed a second time, it seems unlikely that the House will take up its version of comprehensive reform," said Hickey.

The Senate had been working its way through various amendments and supporters of the Senate bill were encouraged over the last two days when most of the amendments were defeated. The vote today was to allow the Senate to finish the amendments and move to final passage, which would have required only a simple majority. But the failure of the vote on cloture effectively eliminated this opportunity.

Tightening the nationís borders was a critical component of the legislation. Border security, additional enforcement capabilities, and a new electronic employment verification system would have had to be in place before many of the other provisions of the bill were triggered.

The bill also provided for a new two-year "Y Visa" for temporary workers that would have allowed them to enter the U.S. each year to fill low-skilled jobs, similar to the current H-2A and H-2B programs. Such workers would have been able to enter the U.S. and work for three two-year terms, provided they left the U.S. for a year between each term.

The broad legislation also included many of the provisions in the agriculture-specific AgJOBS bill, which recognized the special seasonal needs of agriculture, including horse farms.

Undocumented workers in the U.S. as of January 1, 2007 could have applied for a new "Z Visa," which could be renewed every four years. This would have permitted the estimated 12 million undocumented workers in the U.S., including some in the horse industry, to regularize their status and continue working. To receive this visa, workers would have had to pass a criminal background check and pay fines.

These workers could eventually file for permanent residence once the current backlog cleared, estimated to take 8 to 10 years. These aliens would have had to return to their native country for a short time to apply for their Green Card.

"Whether comprehensive legislation can still be considered, or whether a piece-meal approach to reform, like taking border security first, then temporary worker programs, and then handling the millions of undocumented workers, remains to be seen," said Hickey. "The approach until now has been to try to eat the whole apple at one time. But I suspect thereís not much stomach in Congress for stepping back into that orchard with its hornetsí nests. Maybe after a long break, the will might return. But itís been bruising over the last six weeks in the Senate."

Courtesy: The HorseTV Channel News, http://www.horsetv.com


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