Hoping to ramp up political pressure on House Republicans to pass an immigration reform bill, the White House released a report Monday outlining the economic benefits of a Senate passed version of the legislation.
The report focuses on earnings in both farm income and agriculture exports, which could expand if the industry had more access to qualified, willing workers, the White House says.
"The agriculture industry is hampered by a broken immigration system that fails to support a predictable and stable workforce," said a White House press release.
The provisions in the bipartisan Senate-passed bill would allow for an estimated 1.5 million farm workers and their families to earn legal status, after agreeing to pay a fine and back taxes, the Obama administration report says.
"Coupled with a decline in native-born rural populations, the strength and continuity of rural America is contingent on common sense immigration reform that improves job opportunity, provides local governments with the tools they need to succeed and increases economic growth," the White House release said.
Citing a 2008 analysis, provisions to expand the guest worker program similar to those included in the Senate bill, the White House report says the legislation "would raise GDP by approximately $2 billion in 2014 and $9.79 billion in 2045. And it would increase total employment by nearly 17,000 jobs in 2014 and nearly 40,000 jobs in 2045."
House Republicans are struggling to come up with a plan to move forward on immigration reform, as some members hope to pass bills in a piecemeal fashion, addressing separately topics such as border control and a path to citizenship for children brought here through no fault of their own when their parents entered the country illegally.
But House Speaker John Boehner says he will not bring forth a measure without the support of a majority of the Republican caucus and that's left the body in limbo. Many conservatives say they oppose any measure that would offer a path to citizenship and have expressed concerns about immigrants receiving new federal benefits.
"For everyone who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert," said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, in an interview with Newsmax last week. King's comments were condemned by Boehner and other Republican leaders, but the mixed messaging serves to highlight the GOP's struggle with pleasing its base and attempting to broaden the party's appeal following the 2012 election losses.
Meanwhile, the White House hopes the economic report will bolster their case for reform.
"It is time for the Republican leadership in the House to act to fix the broken immigration system in a way that requires responsibility from everyone, both from workers here illegally and from those who hire them, and guarantees that everyone is playing by the same rules," the White House release said.