Congressman David Valadao (R-Hanford) has renewed his call for the House to take up the issue of comprehensive immigration reform this year. He made his comments this week speaking on Valley Public Radio's Valley Edition.
The Hanford Republican says that the House GOP leadership should bring the bill, HR 15 up for debate. The measure would address a variety of immigration issues, including border security, a guest worker program and a pathway to citizenship for those currently in the country illegally.
"This bill as it's written today, is not perfect," says Valadao. "What I'm asking for right now is to start to have that debate in committee and on the floor. We know and everybody sits around and points fingers and says 'look, we know this is wrong with it, we know that's wrong with it.' Well, if we know what's wrong with it, why not have that debate and start to make those changes and improve it?"
Last week, Valadao made national headlines by becoming one of only three House Republicans to co-sponsor the Democratic-backed bill. He joined fellow San Joaquin Valley Republican Jeff Denham and Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in supporting the bill, which is based on a measure passed by the Senate earlier this year.
He says he'd like to see some changes in the definitions used in the guest worker portion of the bill, but he says the time is right to address the issue before the end of the year, and next year's mid-term elections.
"We've been talking about immigration reform for the last 11 months," says Valadao. "And I've been getting a lot of commitments and promises from both sides of the aisle. And now getting close to the end of the year, I'm starting to see it's fallen off to the side a little bit."
Valadao says members of both parties need to work together to pass the legislation, which he called key to the San Joaquin Valley's economy.
"As far as any piece of legislation that we ever work on, it doesn't matter if it's immigration, health care, whatever. If we always address everything in a partisan way, we'll always end up losing. We have to address this from a person's perspective, from a human perspective. And I think when we work on legislation like immigration reform, if you do it just for political reasons, you're probably going to do something wrong. You've got to do it for the right reasons. And we all know there's something wrong with the immigration system, so we have to have some type of reform to it."
Valadao, a Kings County dairyman in his first term in Washington, represents a district that is over 70 percent Latino. He says Republicans need to boost their credibility on the issue by moving forward with a comprehensive bill now.
"I think that Republicans coming to the table and having that conversation, an honest debate on it, not just talking points, not just pointing out what's wrong with it, but having an honest debate on it, I think will give us a lot more credibility on the issue, and other issues, and that will help us quite a bit, and it will be good for the country in general," says Valadao.
He says the guest worker portion of the law is of chief concern to his constituents in Central California. Again this year, valley growers reported labor shortages, which many attribute to the nation's immigration policy including stepped up enforcement efforts.
"The stronger the administration comes in and starts to enforce the laws, especially when you get in to E-Verify and those, if they leave that hole there, with no guest worker program, it puts agriculture and the economy of the valley in a real tough spot," says Valadao.
Valadao also said the fallout over the government shutdown has made it more difficult to "trust the other side" in working to pass legislation such as HR15.