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Immigration Issues: Better off with Trump or Clinton?

July 6, 2016 -  By

 

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Now that the two presumptive presidential candidates have been chosen, which candidate will be more likely to fix the broken immigration system and seasonal guest-worker programs, like H-2B?

To look at this question we’ll need to separate comprehensive immigration reform from the guest-worker programs that the green industry relies upon. Let’s take immigration reform first.

Clinton on comprehensive immigration reform

Hillary Clinton has taken a strong stand for comprehensive immigration reform, promising during a Telemundo/MSNBC town hall in April that it would be “at the top of the list” during her first 100 days in office. According to her website, Clinton’s view of immigration reform includes a path to citizenship for undocumented residents.

In addition, Clinton supported President Obama’s executive action to defer deportation of undocumented residents. It was recently struck down by the Supreme court.

While Clinton’s support for comprehensive immigration reform seems unequivocal, her ability to advance the issue, assuming she wins in November, would depend upon what happens to Congress in the fall election. If the Senate and House both remain in Republican hands, any immigration reform bill that she advances will meet stiff resistance.

If the Senate switches from Republican to Democratic control in 2017, it may be possible to advance a comprehensive immigration bill through the Senate to the House. But if the House remains in Republican hands, the bill likely would meet the same fate as the comprehensive reform bill crafted by the so-called “Gang of Eight” in the Senate in 2013. This bipartisan Senate bill was passed by the Senate, then died in the House.

Immigration reform has become such a toxic issue for House Republicans that it would take both houses flipping to Democratic control for a comprehensive bill to have any chance of passing.

Trump on comprehensive immigration reform

On the other hand, it seems that there would be little chance that Donald Trump would be supportive of comprehensive immigration reform. He launched his campaign by pledging to “build a wall” on the U.S.-Mexican border. Trump’s solutions to the immigration problem seems to be limited to strong enforcement efforts at the border.

For Trump, a path to citizenship for undocumented residents is out of the question. If elected, he has pledged to have a special police force round up the 11 million undocumented residents in this country and deport them.

Trump on guest-worker programs

At first blush, Donald Trump would seem opposed to guest-worker programs. After a March primary debate, Trump issued a statement that said, if elected, “I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program.” The H-1B program, used extensively by the technology industry, allows foreign workers with specialized skills to enter the country legally and work in specific areas where workers are scarce.

But Donald Trump himself makes extensive use of the H-2B seasonal worker program in his hotels and golf courses, the same program used by some landscape contractors.

As president, would Trump be more favorable and understanding toward companies using H-2B than the tech companies using the H1-B program? Difficult to say at this point, but we could hope that he could understand the business need for seasonal workers.

Clinton on guest-worker programs

Most of the debate about guest-worker programs during this election cycle has centered on the H-1B visas. But if we reach back to 2008, then-candidate Clinton was quoted by Politico saying she only supported guest-worker programs for agriculture and not for the hospitality industry. H-2A good, H-2B bad, according to Clinton.

We can also infer that, since Clinton has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO and other labor organizations, that her attitude toward guest-worker programs would parallel theirs: They oppose them. Clinton’s position with regard to H-2B would likely be similar to the Obama Administration’s hostile attitude.

Where does that leave us?

A Trump presidency could give us a glimmer of hope for the H-2B guest-worker program. But judging from their public statements and groups they are aligned with, both presumptive presidential candidates could be hostile to the H-2B program—not good news for landscape companies who use the program.

A Clinton presidency could make comprehensive immigration reform a possibility, but only if both houses of Congress flip to Democratic control. That is a long shot.

Photo: iStock.com / bgwalker

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About the Author:

Gregg Robertson, Landscape Management's government relations blogger, is a government relations consultant for the Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association (PLNA) and president of Conewago Ventures. From 2002 until May 2013 he served as president of PLNA. Reach him at gregg.robertson@conewagoventures.com.

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