retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The US Senate yesterday passed comprehensive immigration reform that combines a long-term path to citizenship for the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants with significantly bolstered border security. The vote was 68-32, with 14 Republicans crossing the aisle to vote with the Democratic majority, a move that was seen as giving the bill a bipartisan patina.

However, passage in the US House of Representatives is seen as much more problematic, as conservative House members seem unwilling to consider the Senate bill, and the GOP leadership has said it will not bring up the bill on the floor if a majority of the Republican majority is not in favor of it.

Upon passage of the bill, National Grocers Association (NGA) President and CEO Peter J. Larkin released the following statement:

"I applaud the Senate for passing comprehensive bipartisan legislation today to overhaul American's immigration system for the first time since 1986. While no bill is ever perfect this legislation is an important step in the right direction by embracing comprehensive reform that addresses the real challenges facing our nation today, while ensuring protections for employers acting in good faith.

"It's time for Congress to do the right thing and pass comprehensive immigration reform that encompasses the principles approved by NGA's Board of Directors. It's now time for the House to follow the Senate's lead by passing a bi-partisan, comprehensive bill. NGA looks forward to continuing to work with the House of Representatives to do just that."

And Tom Stenzel, CEO of United Fresh, said:
“We applaud the Senate for seizing the opportunity to enact immigration reform that is desperately needed in the fresh produce industry and many other sectors of agriculture. This bill will ease the burden on agricultural employers, create more jobs along the entire supply chain, and boost the economy. We appreciate the efforts of our allies in the Agriculture Workforce Coalition and United Farm Workers with whom we worked to advance provisions that will provide a legal and stable workforce for fruit and vegetable growers.”
KC's View:
Maybe I'm just cynical, but it just seems totally unlikely that the House will pass anything even remotely similar to the Senate bill, which is a shame since the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Senate bill, if it became law, could reduce budget deficits by $200 billion in the first decade, by another $700 billion in the second decade.

The ultimate problem seems to be gerrymandering - congressional districts that have been drawn so that members of the House only have to appeal to their bases, and don't have to seek broader, cross-party appeal. In the GOP, many office holders are concerned - with justification - that they will be challenged from the right in primaries, and for political reasons, they have to occupy the most conservative positions so that they don't face such challenges.

That's not to say that there are not principled reasons to oppose immigration reform as it has been cast by the Senate. But it seems to me that we will, in the end, be a richer country for smart immigration policies that combine better enforcement with a path to citizenship. (I also think, quite frankly, that the national policy ought to be to staple a Green Card to the diploma of every immigrant who graduates from college here. In the big picture, they make us better, and stronger ... not weaker.)