WASHINGTON – The Senate balked Tuesday at using an Iraq-Afghanistan aid bill to make it possible for immigrant farmworkers to win permanent or temporary legal status, but it didn’t object to changing a visa program to provide migrant crab pickers and oyster shuckers for the Maryland seafood season.
The lawmakers quickly dispensed with two competing agricultural worker measures.
A 53-45 vote indicated support for a measure offered by Sens. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., offering permanent residency to certain immigrant workers. Craig and Kennedy, however, needed 60 votes to prevent opponents from blocking their measure.
A counterproposal to provide temporary legal status to illegal immigrants as long as U.S. employers have use for them won the support of only 21 senators; 77 opposed it.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., won a 94-6 vote to attach to the bill her measure to exempt from the annual 66,000 ceiling on H2B visas workers needed this spring and summer by seafood wholesalers. Workers who had held such visas in previous seasons wouldn’t be subject to the ceiling for this year and next.