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National Restaurant Association - House eyes bipartisan immigration reform

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House eyes bipartisan immigration reform

A day after the Senate passed bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform legislation, two key members of the House of Representatives described how they are taking a similar bipartisan approach, but said the House will produce its own legislation rather than take up the Senate bill.

Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) made the comments at a forum on immigration policy, co-sponsored by Bloomberg Government and the National Restaurant Association. The event was broadcast on C-SPAN and can be viewed online at www.c-span.org.

“With the critical vote in the Senate, we’re just part of the way there,” Scott DeFife, NRA executive vice president, policy and government affairs, said during the forum. “The House needs to work its will, and the representatives we have here today are part of making that happen.” Diaz-Balart and Lofgren are part of the group of House members known as the “Gang of Seven” who, like the Senate’s “Gang of Eight,” have been working across party lines to craft bipartisan immigration reform policy.

“I’m cautiously optimistic, but obviously there are many challenges we need to face,” Lofgren said. Diaz-Balart called the cross-party negotiations “an important step in the right direction.”

“It’s great to see a serious effort and a bipartisan effort,” Diaz-Balart said. “The only way we’re going to solve something so difficult is in a bipartisan way.”

Both Diaz-Balart and Lofgren declined to give details of the House legislation, saying they preferred to wait until the legislation is final. However, they both said that they were encouraged by the bipartisan cooperation that has taken place so far. Both addressed goals that are important to restaurant operators, such as a pathway to legalization for the approximately 11 million undocumented individuals already in the country and national use the E-Verify system to check employment eligibility.

The NRA has long advocated that comprehensive immigration reform must include a clear path to legalization, improved border security that doesn’t interfere with legal travel and tourism and national use of a workable, efficient E-Verify system.

“If we do our jobs, we’ll be able to come up with a measure that secures the border, provides for enforcement of workable law…and also does something about the 11 million people who need to get right with the law,” Lofgren said.

Neither gave a timeline for the House to release legislation, saying it’s more important to work out the details of a bill than to meet a specific deadline.

Input from industries will continue to be important in crafting the legislation, Diaz-Balart said.

“I think it’s important for everyone, including the high-tech industry, the restaurant industry, to come forward and make sure that everybody understands what the problems are and what the needs are.”

Visit the NRA’s website dedicated to immigration reform, www. AmericaWorksHere.org,  for the latest on legislation and advocacy.

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