Commentary: U.S. must reform immigration

This editorial appeared in The Fresno Bee.

We have long supported federal legislation to ensure an adequate supply of labor for agriculture, but our goal is to have a guest-worker program as part of a comprehensive immigration reform bill. We hope that bill gets through Congress this year, allowing President Barack Obama to fulfill a campaign promise to solve the nation's immigration mess.

Supporters of a guest-worker bill for agriculture are hoping the farm labor shortages can be resolved through separate legislation. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has introduced such a bill, but it's questionable whether that measure has the support to get through Congress on its own.

Feinstein's latest bill would legalize more than 2 million illegal immigrant farmworkers and their family members. Similar bills have been introduced since 2003 without success.

While Feinstein has been persistent, the best opportunity to solve the agricultural labor problem would be as part of a comprehensive immigration bill that deals with all aspects of the immigration problem.

Obama has given mixed messages on his commitment to immigration reform this year. He is reportedly pursuing a "working group" to study the issue prior to introducing reform legislation, but it's unclear whether he will pursue a bill this year because of other issues, including the economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Feinstein's Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act, or AgJOBS, is supported by the United Farm Workers of America and farm groups, including the California Farm Bureau Federation.

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