Beyond a pathway to citizenship and new border security promises, the bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill unveiled last week also includes a number of provisions put in by the authors of the measure to benefit their states.
For example, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham added 20,000 worker visas for the meat and poultry industry in his home state, while Florida Republican Marco Rubio added visas as well for the cruise ship industry operating out of the Sunshine State and for relief and cleanup workers to come in after hurricanes.
But they weren't the only senators, according to The Wall Street Journal, to insert language into the bill that addresses immigration issues particular to their own states.
Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet added a provision making it easier for ski resorts to hire foreign ski instructors. The measure would allow them to come to the United States under the same rules as professional athletes for a period of up to 10 years.
And New York Democrat Chuck Schumer also included 10,500 visas for Irish immigrants with at least high school educations.
Rubio immediately denied in a press release that the measures he introduced would only benefit his home state.
He pointed out that natural disasters are not exclusive to Florida and nothing in the legislation is exclusively designed for cruise ship repair workers. “The benefits of everything he has advocated for in this legislation would extend far beyond Florida to the rest of the nation,” read the press release.
Rubio, joined by Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, also added a provision that would allow more high-skilled foreign construction workers into their states to help fill jobs as electricians, plumbers, and welders.
Some union groups did not take well to reports the immigration measure is filled with what the Journal described as "pet provisions" for the senators who crafted the legislation.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union criticized Graham's visa provision for the meat and poultry industry, noting there is no shortage of workers in the industry at the moment.
"The way we view this is it's an earmark for meat and poultry and we strongly, strongly oppose it," Tim Schlittner, a spokesman for the labor union, told the Journal. "It appears to have been dropped in the bill at the 11th hour. Quite frankly, we're taken back by its inclusion."
"We don't want this provision to poison what is otherwise a giant step forward towards comprehensive reform," he said, adding that the UFCWI plans to fight the inclusion of the additional visas.
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