Unlikely as it seems, last week Congress and the Bush Administration agreed on comprehensive immigration reform. The catch will be in the details to be wrestled out in the House and Senate over the few weeks.
Here's a quick peek at details, as reported by Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Larry Craig, R-Idaho.
- Strengthen U.S. borders through additional border patrol agents, building border fences, and enhancing surveillance technology.
- Provide a path to earn legal status for undocumented workers in this country, which is estimated to be 10 to 12 million.
- Enhance the ability of the government to fight against document fraud by including a provision to increase penalties for passport fraud.
- Create a stronger employment verification system to crack down on illegal employment.
- Give young people an opportunity for an education through the American Dream Act.
- Provide a stable and consistent workforce for agriculture, through the AgJOBS program included in the bill.
"Immigration is one of the most difficult areas in which to legislate," acknowledges Feinstein. "We need 60 votes to move anything in the United States Senate. Compromise is the only way we are going to get a bill."
Ag workers features
The agricultural workers program in the bill is fundamentally the same program that the growers and workers negotiated over 10 years, according to Craig. It would create a separate ag workers program to provide a consistent, stable workforce that now depends almost exclusively on undocumented labor.