By Guest Columnist MARK NEWMAN, retired partner with Troutman Sanders
Agriculture is big business in Georgia. One in seven Georgians work in agriculture and the industry contributes nearly $74 billion to our state’s economy. So, when the most important piece of legislation impacting Georgia’s farmers fails to pass the U.S. House of Representatives because of an unrelated immigration issue, it is cause for serious concern.
On May 18, Paul Ryan speaker of the House, brought the Agriculture and Nutrition Act (colloquially known as the Farm Bill) to the House floor for final passage. The Farm Bill sets our national agriculture policy for the next five years and provides stability for Georgia’s farmers.
Unfortunately, this important piece of legislation was voted down by a handful of representatives advocating for stricter immigration policies. Even though the Farm Bill has nothing to do with immigration, these members of Congress decided to flex their muscles and defeat important legislation to make a political statement.
Immigration has become such a hot button issue that it is impacting Congress’ ability to do the ordinary and routine work of the American people. Congress cannot afford to keep the genie in the bottle any longer, it must debate and vote on the major immigration proposals so that Congress can get back to doing its job.
Fortunately, a vehicle exists for both pro and anti-immigration factions to receive a vote on their favored policy proposals. The Queen of the Hill rule sponsored by Rep. Jeff Dunham (R-Ca.) allows four separate immigration proposals to be debated and voted on by the House of Representatives. Whichever proposal receives the most votes is sent to the Senate as the will of the House.
The Queen of the Hill rule is common sense proposal to getting the House back to work. But, Ryan and congressional leadership do not want an immigration vote of any kind before the midterm elections. They’d prefer to let the House grind to a halt for the next five months than allow votes on any immigration proposals.
Voters should demand more of their elected representatives. Members of Congress are elected to make hard decisions, not dodge them because elections are coming, and this means standing up to Speaker Ryan and the Republican leadership. A significant number of representatives are doing exactly that – by signing a discharge petition to force Ryan to put the Queen of the Hill rule on the House floor. Georgia’s elected representatives should support this effort and add their names to the discharge petition.
There is no question immigration is a contentious issue, but it is preventing Congress from doing its job. Voters deserve to know where their elected representatives stand on immigration before the mid-term election and the American people are entitled to a Congress that works. The Queen of the Hill rule is the only path forward on immigration that offers both sides of the debate a vote.
Let’s put Congress back to work. Join me in calling on your representative to sign the discharge petition on the Queen of the Hill rule.
Note to readers: Mark Newman has more than 30 years experience in immigration law and ranked consistently as a top immigration attorney byu Chambers USA and U.S. News – Best Lawyers. His management of the firm’s pro bono work resulted in the 2013 National Public Service Award, from the American Bar Association’s Business Law Section.