The House immigration subcommittee finished work yesterday on a major revision of the nation's immigration laws, and split off for consideration next year a controversial proposal to allow large numbers of foreign workers into the country temporarily to pick perishable crops.
The Senate has finished work on similar legislation, which would provide criminal and civil penalties for employers who hire illegal aliens, an amnesty program for undocumented workers who have been in the United States for a fixed number of years, and increased funding for enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.
The Senate bill would grant legalized status to undocumented aliens who can prove they have lived in this country continuously since Jan. 1, 1980. The House bill has a Jan. 1, 1982, date, and would give legal status to many more aliens.
Another major difference between the two measures is in the area of foreign labor for U.S. farms.
The Senate bill would streamline and expand the H2 program, which allows the Labor Department to bring small numbers of foreign farm workers into the country for fixed periods. In addition, the Senate approved a new program that would allow admission of up to 300,000 foreign workers for up to nine months to pick perishable crops.
The provision was promoted by lobbyists for U.S. growers and was opposed by U.S. farm workers and organized labor.
The House Judiciary subcommittee yesterday rejected an attempt by Rep. Daniel E. Lungren (R-Calif.) to put a similar provision in the House bill. But Lungren made it clear that his proposal and others dealing with the foreign farm worker program will be dealt with when the bill is before the full committee and later on the House floor. The House passed a similar provision last year.
The House bill initially contained much the same streamlined H2 program as passed the Senate, but the subcommittee adopted several modifications yesterday proposed by Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.) to protect the rights of U.S. workers as well as foreign temporary workers.
One amendment, adopted 6 to 4, would give the foreign workers the right to free legal assistance.
Another would force farmers to provide American workers with the same inducements they give foreign temporary workers, such as a travel allowance to get to the job site. Berman argued that such protection is necessary for unemployed American workers, who, he said, would take the jobs if they could get to them.
His amendment also would make it illegal to use foreign temporary workers as strike-breakers.
Subcommittee Chairman Romano L. Mazzoli (D-Ky.) said he hoped the Judiciary Committee would begin action on the bill the first week of December, when Congress returns from its Thanksgiving recess. But Judiciary Chairman Peter W. Rodino Jr. (D-N.J.) said he is not sure when the panel will begin final markup. Several members said they hoped the committee could finish early next year.