Administration officials today offered Congress a compromise to a Senate-approved plan to allow 350,000 foreign farm workers into the country to help harvest highly perishable crops.
As proposed by the officials at a House hearing, the Administration plan would allow the entry of the seasonal workers but would let a special commission determine how many should be let in.
The proposal came in “a statement of principles” outlined by Alan Nelson, the head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, before a House Judiciary subcommittee holding hearings on major immigration reform legislation intended to stem a growing flood of illegal migrants across U.S. borders.
“The Administration compromise proposal constitutes a definite improvement over the existing use of illegal aliens,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the program should be “capped in a realistic manner” to help meet concerns that the aliens would take the jobs of Americans.
Also appearing before the panel to support the proposal were Deputy Agriculture Secretary John Norton, Assistant Labor Secretary Michael Baroody and Assistant Secretary of State Michael Newlin.
Norton, a California grower himself, said foreign workers continue to be needed to help harvest U.S. crops because enough domestic workers are not available.
“The many and varied attempts of farmers to attract sufficient American labor to harvest all crops have been largely unsuccessful,” he said.
If foreign labor is not brought in legally, Norton said, farmers will continue to use illegal aliens and undermine immigration controls sought under the legislation.