7/31/2014

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Valadao's support of immigration reform: 'opportunity is now'

Valadao's support of immigration reform: 'opportunity is now'

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Amid a growing problem of a farming labor shortage, Congressman David Valadao, R-Calif., spoke to Eyewitness News about his decision to stray from his party and support a comprehensive immigration reform bill, HR 15.

Eyewitness News sat down with the congressman to discuss immigration reform and the challenges facing local growers. Here's what he had to say:

Q:

Why did you decide to go against party lines and come out in support of immigration reform?

A:

“I come from an ag background, so obviously, from the AG employer perspective, immigration is something I’ve gone back to D.C. for years to talk about. For me personally, my parents are immigrants, so it’s something that’s close to home, personally and business wise. … I’m still new to Congress, but it’s something that’s been part of the conversation. I’m just a little frustrated that it’s slowed down a little bit, so we’re trying to get a little movement, some conversation. We trying to bring it to the floor and have that honest debate on it.”

Q:

How was the reaction from your fellow Republicans?

A:

“It wasn’t that bad. A lot of my constituents were happy, obviously some are concerned. The more that they start to understand that this isn’t just one aspect of it, it does cover all the different aspects of immigration. … It was a little bit of a scary moment for some of us, but it wasn’t that bad. Most members, even leadership back in D.C. and other members, some of them are considering signing on, some of them are considering being part of other pieces of legislation. The conversation is there and we’re hoping to bring some more awareness to it.”

Q:

Why do you think it is important for Congress to pass immigration reform legislation?

A:

“It’s been an issue for a long time, but why now? We feel like the opportunity is now. You’re starting to see a lot of people being impacted at once. … I have a lot of constituents who have relatives who have been waiting in line 17, 20 years, 25 years to come here the legal way. So in general the system has been broke, but it seems like everything kind of came to a head at once and it seems the political will is there now.”

Q:

How does HR-15 address the labor shortage that affecting growers in California?

A:

“This administration has actually deported more people than anybody else. I think we’re at about 1,100 -- 1,200 people per day is what he’s averaging. So, there’s a big impact on people that are here working and some of them that are not working. But as far as agriculture, this bill does have an agriculture provision in there, and that’s one of the things I think is very important. It does create a way for people to come here legally and work, some short term, some long term, depending on what agriculture field they decide to go into and where the need is.”

Q:

Why don’t growers just try and target Americans for work?

A:

“If you pay attention and you walk the area, you’ll run across the occasional American out there ... Every once in a while, one will show up, they’ll work for a little bit, they’ll figure out after a week, hey, this ain’t for me. I’m gonna go do something else. But it is tough work, and a lot of people talk about the wages. I’ve got guys who are paying pretty good wages. I’ve seen people offer as much as $19 per hour and also there is some lower wages as well. But there are people out there willing to pay the dollars, they’re just not seeing the guys, and it’s getting pretty frustrating.”

Q:

One of the biggest issues many Republican leaders have with immigration reform is that it could allow people who came to the United States illegally a chance at citizenship. What is your opinion on this debate?

A:

“After 15 to 20 years, whatever it may be, if it’s 10 years, if they’ve done nothing else wrong and been productive members of society, it’s really a hard place to be to say you can never ever be a citizen. You want that person to pay for whatever they did wrong, get right with the law and if they so choose to go down that path.”

Q:

Why is HR 15 the best comprehensive immigration reform that has been introduced to the House of Representatives?

A:

"Well, HR 15 isn’t the only last option. I mean, there’s other options out there. I signed on to HR 15 to send a message that this is important and we need to bring some awareness to this. But leadership wants to take the step-by-step approach, that’s fine. Let’s work that way, let’s have those debates, but we have to have that debate. We have to have that conversation. Just standing back and saying this is broken, let’s do something doesn’t do anything. We have to have that opportunity on the floor, in committee, let’s have this conversation. Get through the details, get through the nitty gritty, let’s get our hands dirty and make some decisions."

Q:

How likely is it that some type of immigration reform will be passed in the next year?

A:

“There’s a pundit for everything that says anything could happen. It’s gotta be after the sign in periods or after filing periods or it’s gotta be after primaries or it’s gotta be after the next president election. Whenever it may be, everybody’s got a different plan. It just takes us having the conversation, getting leadership to understand, and schedule some time on the floor to have these conversations.”

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