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April 20, 2005

Senate Moves on AgJobs, H-2B & EB-3 Relief; No Action Yet on REAL ID

Tuesday, April 19, was a busy day on Capitol Hill. The Senate voted on several immigration-related amendments to the Iraqi/Tsunami Relief supplemental appropriations bill (H.R. 1268). The following is a brief overview of the action:

1. AgJobs: AgJobs was considered under a procedure known as cloture (which means that 60 votes were needed to stop debate on the measure and allow it subsequently to proceed to a substantive vote.) While we fell a bit short-53 yea votes (when we needed 60) to 45 nay votes-we can take comfort in the fact that the competing Chambliss/Kyl agricultural worker amendment, which AILA did not support because it would have gutted major aspects of needed reform in the agricultural sector, only garnered 21 yeas and 77 nays during its cloture vote. Senate supporters of AgJobs view the majority vote of 53 Senators as a "green light" to attach AgJobs to future legislation.

2. H-2B Relief: The Senate passed by an impressive vote of 94-6 the "Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act of 2005" (S. 352), introduced by Senators Mikulski (D-MD) and Gregg (R-NH). (The earlier cloture vote on this measure also succeeded by an impressive margin: 83-17). AILA strongly supported this measure that provides short term H-2B relief. This is an important victory and will be helpful as we move on to comprehensive reform.

3. EB-3 Relief: By unanimous consent, the Senate also passed a measure sponsored by Senators Schumer (D-NY), Hutchison (R-TX) and Kennedy (D-MA) that would recapture EB -3 numbers lost from FY 2001-2004 due to processing delays. 50% of these numbers would be allocated to Schedule A occupations.

Both the H-2B relief bill and the EB-3 relief provisions will now be included in the Senate version of the supplemental appropriations bill. However, since neither of these measures was included in the House-passed supplemental, they will be discussed when House and Senate conferees meet to resolve differences between the two bills. In both cases, AILA will urge the House to recede to the Senate on both the H-2B bill and EB-3 relief.

4. REAL ID: A Senate vote on the REAL ID Act did not take place on Tuesday, April 19. While we are unclear if or when this vote will take place, our Hill supporters are nonetheless preparing for a vote. Please continue to contact your Senators to oppose this ill-conceived measure. Call the congressional switchboard on 202-224-3121 and ask to speak to your Senators, and/or send a letter to your Senators using Contact Congress

If the Senate passes the REAL ID Act, it will become law as part of the supplemental appropriations bill since the House already has passed it. If we are able to defeat the REAL ID in the Senate, or if there is not a vote on it, the REAL ID will still be part of conference discussions. We will urge conferees to remove REAL ID from the supplemental bill.

5. Conference: We expect that House and Senate conferees will meet very quickly after the Senate finishes its work on the supplemental bill in the next day or two. The REAL ID Act (if not passed by the Senate), H-2B relief, and EB-3 relief will be subject to conference negotiations. It is thus important to focus attention on Members of both the House and Senate.

Posted by VisaLawyer at April 20, 2005 07:06 AM

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