Thursday, October 18, 2007

john cornyn is actually right about something (and it's about time)

We don't agree on much with Sen. John Cornyn, a tried and true Texas Republican that stands on the wrong side of issues such as SCHIP and Iraq and recently authored a "sense of the Senate" resolution condemning liberal organization for an ad they took out in the New York Times.

There's not much doubt that we will support the eventual Democratic nominee that will run against Cornyn in 2008. In the primary, Texas Democrats will choose between Rick Noriega and Mikal Watts, both of whom would make an all-around better senator for Texas.

But maybe Cornyn's not all bad.

Here's what Cornyn and his staff had to say in a constituent response email about the Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act (S. 988) introduced by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.
As you know, the Immigration and Nationality Act authorizes employers in certain industries to hire temporary and seasonal workers—subject to an annual cap of 66,000 employees—from outside the United States. The H-2B program is designed to help U.S. employers fill a one-time need, seasonal need, peak-load need or intermittent need.

I supported a comprehensive immigration effort that would include a robust temporary worker program that meets the needs of the U.S. labor market. Though the comprehensive immigration reform proposal debated this year could not be adopted because of significant flaws, I continue to push for the Senate to re-engage the debate on immigration reform this year. As an interim step, I support reform measures that will streamline existing temporary worker programs, like the H-2B visa program, as a solution to demands in critical sectors like the Texas landscaping and construction industries. President George W. Bush has recognized the need for such reform and has taken the lead in looking at ways to administratively reform both the H-2B and H-1A seasonal worker programs.

I support the goal of the Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act (S. 988) as introduced by Senator Barbara Mikulski. I am also exploring introducing a more comprehensive legislative package designed to create more targeted reforms to both the H-2B and H-2A programs and to permanently re-authorize the “returning worker” provisions introduced in the Save our Small and Seasonal Business Act of 2005 (P.L. 109–13, as amended by P.L. 109–364).
I guess even if you make a career of bad decisions, you'll eventually do something right by accident. Or, he truly stands on the side of small business and supports legal immigrants and seasonal workers, both of which are invaluable to Texans and our state's economy.

Thankfully, Sen. Mikulski was able to protect small businesses for another year by adding language to the 2008 fiscal spending bill. In a press release, the senator said we could count on her to keep fighting for small business.

“Who says my promises made are not promises kept? I told small businesses they could count on me to keep fighting, and I meant it,” said Senator Mikulski. “Without these seasonal workers, many businesses would not survive – forced to limit services, lay off permanent U.S. workers or, worse yet, close their doors.”

The Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act, signed into law by President Bush in May 2005, made significant changes to the federal H2B (non-skilled seasonal worker) visa program. Among the changes, it exempted returning seasonal workers from counting against the national cap of 66,000 people, created new anti-fraud provisions, and ensured a fair allocation of H2B visas among spring and summer employees. This exemption, however, was not made permanent in the 2005 bill, and has to be extended each year until Senator Mikulski’s proposal to make it permanent is passed into law. Last year, a last-minute, one-year extension was included as part of the 2007 Department of Defense authorization bill, but it expired on September 30, 2007.

Senator Mikulski joined Senator John Warner (R-Va.) in March 2007 to introduce a stand alone bill to extend the provision, and also included it as an amendment to the comprehensive immigration packages considered by the Senate this spring. Unfortunately, no bill was brought up for a final vote before the provision’s expiration.

Today’s provision is a one-year extension to allow companies to continue to get the seasonal workers they depend on, and will expire on September 30, 2008.

Mikulski vowed that she won't give up until the fix is permanent. We're glad that John Cornyn stands by her side. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, however, is another story. She is remaining intentionally ambiguous on the issue. A line from her constituent response:
Temporary work visas play an important role in ensuring U.S. companies have the workers they need to succeed in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. However, U.S. immigration policy must ensure American workers have every opportunity to compete for available jobs.
Perhaps she will remain vague, since anything regarding immigration is seen as controversial in Texas. But why is she worried, when she enjoys such high approval ratings? It seems like she has some new career aspirations which might prohibit her from taking any real stances for the remainder of her Senate term.

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