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Eye On Boise

Labrador says he can both reform nation’s immigration system and run for governor: ‘I can walk and chew gum’

Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador (AP)
Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador (AP)

Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, the new chair of a House subcommittee on immigration, told Idaho reporters this afternoon that he hopes to “fix the broken immigration system” between now and the end of his current two-year term, after which he’s running for governor rather than seeking re-election. “I don’t think it’s limited time – I actually think it’s the perfect time,” Labrador said. “This is what I came to Congress to work on, is to modernize and fix the broken immigration system. This is a golden opportunity for me to do this while I’m also running for governor. I can walk and chew gum, I think I’ve shown that, at the same time.”

Labrador said, “You have the first term of a new president, you have the House and the Senate, and we can make the major reforms to the immigration system that we need to do, we can bring the immigration system into the 21st Century … have a system that puts Americans first and looks at the needs of the United States, not the needs of people that are here illegally. So I’m excited about this, because it’s something I’ve been working on, I’m passionate about, and I’m the person in the House who is the expert in this area.”

Labrador, an immigration attorney, currently is sponsoring two bills, an immigration enforcement crackdown bill dubbed the Davis-Oliver Act, and a bill to limit refugee resettlement that cleared the House Judiciary Committee today. He said taken together, the two measures are “major reforms to our current immigration system,” and said, “I think you guys have heard me talk about, for the last eight years, about how we need to do immigration reform in a step-by-step approach, we need to modernize the immigration system,” make sure local law enforcement can work with the system, and “make sure we vet refugees and other immigrants coming to the United States carefully. All of those things are being done by these two bills.”

Asked whether that was the extent of his proposed reforms to immigration, Labrador said no. “We have right now five bills,” he said, “that deal with interior enforcement. We are then going to move on to working on the guest worker program, and especially the H2A (visa) that deals with our farmers.” That could include expanding that program, which currently doesn’t cover year-round workers, to allow foreign dairy workers to fall under it and work in the United States for up to three years, if they return to their home country for a month a year, he said. “We’re also going to deal with visa entry, e-verify. We have a pretty big, broad agenda of all the things we’re going to do to modernize this immigration system.”

He said his proposed expansion of the H2A visa program, which still is in draft form, likely wouldn’t allow dairy workers who are already in the country illegally to apply. “The way it should always be done, if you entered illegally, you should go back to your home country or at least leave the country” in order to apply, he said.

Labrador said another reason he thinks this is the right time for immigration reform is that “you get past this cycle, this next 18 months or so, then you get into the silly season, where you’re talking about re-election of a president and things like that. … So I think now is the time.”

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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