While some members of Congress are calling on President Obama to include farm workers in his expected executive action to give relief to illegal immigrants in the U.S., the timing and substance of his potential moves is unclear.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus said in a Nov. 12 memo to President Obama that the president has the “legal authority and moral imperative” to provide relief for 7 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., including agricultural and seasonal farm workers.
A Fox News report Nov. 13 said that President Obama will unveil a 10-part plan to reform immigration policy by executive action, including a suspension of deportations for millions. The report said the plan include initiatives that cover border security, deferred action on deportation, higher pay for immigration officers, and other issues. Fox News reported that the plan, possibly to be unveiled Nov. 21, calls for not only broadening deferred action for illegal immigrants who came to the country as children, but also including the parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. The Fox News report did not include any reference, however, to any actions planned by Obama to provide relief to illegal immigrants working in agriculture.
President Obama may wait until to announce his plans on immigration until after the lame duck session of Congress is over in mid-December, said Dennis Nuxoll, Washington, D.C.-based vice president of federal government affairs for Western Growers, Irvine, Calif..
“I think the safe money is that he will wait until the lame duck (session) is over because they need to fund the government for the rest of the year,” he said. Government operations are only funded until Dec. 12, and Congress must approve spending bill before then to avoid a government shutdown. Some members of the Republican led-Congress may elect to fund the government on a short term basis through March in order to keep the government shutdown as leverage for other issues.
With Republican plans on taking up immigration reform still not settled, Nuxoll said that Western Growers wants to see the details of what President Obama may propose relating to immigrant farm workers before judging it.
Nuxoll said that President Obama has certain legal limitations on what he can do. For example, President Obama can’t legally create a new guest worker program for agriculture.
But Nuxoll is convinced Obama will act.
“At this point, he has said it so much, he would have zero credibility if he did not take action,” he said.