RED BLUFF, Calif. — A conservative California congressman says he has made a “pivot” with regard to immigration reform and now believes it should be done soon.
Rep. Doug LaMalfa, a rice farmer and member of the House of Representatives’ agriculture committee, adds he believes there may finally be enough political will in Congress to pass a series of targeted reforms.
LaMalfa said he has been swayed by conversations with farmers – particularly in the nursery industry – who have suffered through labor shortages in recent years.
“Certainly we’ve had some very spirited conversations about how tough it is on them,” the freshman congressman said while appearing at a recent cattlemen’s dinner here. “It’s been those conversations that have made me kind of pivot and say we’ve got to get something done.”
LaMalfa noted that while there’s been “a lot of noise about” immigration reform, polls still show it low on a list of priorities for American voters. However, he believes there’s a pressing need to control the borders while also providing a stable source of workers for farms.
The lawmaker’s comments add to a sense that there’s growing momentum for immigration reform, which will be one of President Barack Obama’s priorities in the coming weeks. A comprehensive bill passed the Senate last year but was rejected in the House, as conservative Republicans resisted an approach they considered amnesty for illegal immigrants.
The House is expected to pursue a piecemeal approach that the chamber’s Democrats hope will adequately address workforce and human-rights issues affected by long-term congressional inaction on the issue.
Farm groups including the California Farm Bureau Federation and California Strawberry Commission have been loud advocates for reforms. Strawberry growers took part in a rally with Obama in November, arguing a lack of reforms put their farms and surrounding communities at risk.
On other issues, LaMalfa:
• Said he strongly disagreed with a California Supreme Court ruling allowing an illegal immigrant to practice law in the state. An immigrant from Mexico, Sergio Garcia has been living in the country for nearly two decades, according to CNN.
• Said he hopes the current drought in California will “wake up” city dwellers to the needs of farmers. He said he would be in favor of a water bond that focuses on storage “rather than everything else.”
Rep. Doug LaMalfa: http://lamalfa.house.gov