Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 10:20 AM
Dan Wheat/Capital Press
Dan Fazio, director of the Washington Farm Labor Association, Dec. 7, 2011.
By DAN WHEAT
OLYMPIA, Wash. -- President Barack Obama missed an opportunity to lead on immigration reform while eight senators showed more courage with their bipartisan bill, the director of the Washington Farm Labor Association says.
"The eight senators showed a willingness to get out of their respective comfort zones to address comprehensive immigration reform, while the president did not. He missed a good opportunity," said Dan Fazio, association director.
Obama didn't talk about the need for a new guestworker program to help agriculture or any provisions for the future flow of high-tech workers, instead playing it safe with his base -- labor unions and the far left -- who oppose such programs, Fazio said.
"You can't pass comprehensive reform without improvements in these areas," he said.
Obama talked about smarter enforcement, a pathway to citizenship and legal improvements, Fazio said. Legal improvements could include programs for the future flow of workers, but Obama only mentioned family, student and investor visas, none of which is controversial, he said.
"The speech may indicate that the administration is not going to use its considerable influence on the left to work a bipartisan compromise," Fazio said.
The tough issue for Democrats is future flow of workers, guestworker programs for high-tech jobs Americans can't do and low-tech farm and other jobs that Americans don't want, he said.
The tough issue for Republicans is giving legal status to 11 million people in the U.S. illegally, he said.
"That's just as tough for Republicans as guestworker programs are for Democrats," he said. "The Senate proposal tackles status adjustment but it will be a tougher sell in the House."