Comments Of Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, On Vermont’s Priorities In Immigration Reform And The Proposals From The 'Gang Of Eight'

“Immigration reform is a national imperative, and it’s also an opportunity to fix broken parts of the system that are especially important to Vermont.  Vermont dairy farmers particularly have a big stake in Congress getting this right. 

“Vermonters will have a front-and-center seat as this comprehensive immigration reform bill is considered.  In the Judiciary Committee we have had many hearings on immigration issues in recent years, and three so far this year.  The next two hearings I have set, for Friday and Monday, will begin the actual process of writing and refining a reform package to take to the Senate Floor.  Getting this done is one of my highest priorities for the Judiciary Committee and one of the reasons that I decided to continue to chair the committee. 

“The draft bill unveiled by the bipartisan group provides dairy farmers with access to lawful foreign workers where local workers are not available.  Under the legalization program in the bill, many who are currently working on dairy farms in undocumented status will have the chance to legalize their status and achieve the stability for themselves and their employers that is vital to a successful farming operation.  This would accomplish what I have proposed in earlier legislation, and I welcome the progress this represents in resolving the longstanding unfairness of immigration policies when it comes to the real needs and actual experience of Vermont's dairy farmers. 

"After a more thorough review of the legislation, I will decide whether additional improvements are needed to meet the needs of dairy farmers, growers, and farm workers.  I know the agriculture community has worked hard to forge compromises in this legislation that will benefit farmers, workers and their communities. 

"The bipartisan proposal also includes improvements to the temporary worker program used by the ski and hospitality industries.  These changes will help two key components of Vermont's economy meet their seasonal needs. 

“I will also be carefully examining this proposal to see that longstanding priorities of mine that matter greatly to Vermonters are also included, such as my Uniting American Families Act, better protections for refugees and asylum seekers that have long been part of my Refugee Protection Act, and improvements to the EB-5 immigrant investor program.  Those measures all deserve to be part of comprehensive immigration reform.”

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