WASHINGTON – Today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley released the following statement after the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, including a Merkley provision to protect Oregon forest workers by closing a loophole that has been abused in the H-2B visa system.
“We have known for a long time that our immigration system is deeply broken. Today, the Senate has acted and passed a bipartisan bill, built by negotiation and compromise, for comprehensive immigration reform. This bill is not perfect by any means, but we now have a blueprint to strengthen the border and make sure that the millions currently living in the shadows can contribute to our communities if they’re willing to pay back taxes, learn English, and pass a background check. Our economy will be stronger and fairer because of this bill.
“I am particularly pleased that today’s bill includes a provision I have fought for to ensure Oregon timber workers get a full opportunity to fill all available jobs in the woods. It is an outrage that contractors in our federal forests have abused a loophole in the guest worker program to bring in foreign labor instead of hiring Oregonians. This bill will close that loophole and ensure that Oregon workers get the jobs they so much desire.
“Unless a bill makes it to the President’s desk, immigration in the United States will continue to be what it has been by default for the past several decades: a fragmented and chaotic system that does not serve anyone well. The House should move swiftly to take up and pass this bipartisan bill.”