Hastings praises legislation to create guest worker program for farm laborers

U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, praised a GOP-supported bill that would create a guest worker program for foreign farm laborers.

The bill, House Resolution 2278, was approved last week by the House Judiciary Committee.

"We're moving the legislation in the House and hopefully, we can get a workable guest worker program," Hastings said Monday on a visit back to his district.

Supporters say it would also allow companies to make sure their employees are legally in the United States and improve the ability for American companies to hire highly skilled workers from overseas. Opponents say it allows state and local authorities to enforce federal immigration laws and requires mandatory detention for anyone convicted of drunken driving who is in the country illegally.

A competing Senate bill with bipartisan support would allow a 13-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States.

But some conservatives have called on House Speaker John Boehner to keep any immigration legislation from coming to a vote, because of fears of what could happen in a potential compromise with the Senate.

Hastings also said the farm bill, which failed to pass the House last week, won't impact farming as much as its name implies. More than 80 percent isn't related to farming.

The farm bill didn't pass because it gave states the option of participating in a work requirement pilot program for food stamp recipients, Hastings said.

Hastings is in favor of the food stamp work program and hopes the farm bill will come back up for a vote, he said.

"There is very little dispute on the farm policies in the farm bill," he said. "The dispute is in the nutritional program, principally food stamps."

Hastings also hopes to find a Senate sponsor for a bill that would allow public access to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain. Only a few small tours each year are allowed to visit the Mid-Columbia's highest peak.

A Hastings-sponsored bill passed the House unanimously on June 11. A similar bill passed in 2011, but died because of lack of a Senate sponsor.

"There is bipartisan support over there, there's no question about that," he said. "There doesn't have to be a Senate companion bill, it just makes it easier if there is. We passed it unanimously out of the House, so hopefully that momentum will carry over into the Senate."

Hastings met Monday with employees in New York Life Insurance Company's Kennewick office to talk about potential tax reform.

"Obviously in financial institutions, like New York life is, they have an interest in that," he said.