When I watched yesterday's markup hearing for Lamar Smith's E-Verify bill, most members of the Immigration Subcommittee spoke according to script - except one. California conservative Republican Congressman Dan Lungren gave a very pragmatic assessment of where the GOP is going. Passing E-Verify would be a national disaster for the agriculture sector and the agricultural workers bill proposed by Congressman Smith to help allay fears is not going to be enough.
From Huffington Post:
At a Thursday markup of the bill, which would mandate the use of an electronic screening system called E-Verify, one Republican Judiciary Committee member worried aloud that it would hurt agriculture businesses and drive workers underground. Democrats, who by and large oppose the bill, have been airing the same complaints for months, and are now forming an unlikely coalition with conservatives and Tea Partiers who oppose parts of the bill.
"I just can't abide with what we're doing to my state in terms of the temporary need for temporary workers," Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) said. "It would devastate agriculture. … If we do not recognize the demonstrated need for foreign workers, and I'm talking about temporary foreign workers in the agriculture field, we're kidding ourselves."
Tea Party groups, including Take Back Washington, Tea Party Nation and Liberty Coalition, bought a full-page ad in Politico on Thursday criticizing the mandatory E-Verify bill. They also sent an open letter to members of Congress asking them to oppose the bill to avoid disastrous consequences for American citizens.
"Punishing businesses and telling citizens they can't work is no way to stop illegal immigration...or fix the economy," the ad reads.
It's definitely too early to say if we're reaching a turning point on the politics of immigration reform, but when enough of the GOP starts thinking along these lines, we might be able to craft a compromise.