Washington’s ongoing stalemate over immigration reform landed with an awkward thud Tuesday in Edgerton.
At a news conference, U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder said Congress should proceed with efforts to stop new White House rules for an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants. A federal judge blocked implementation of those rules Monday, but Yoder said it wasn’t enough.
“Congress should defund the executive order,” Yoder said.
But Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack — standing just inches from the congressman — suggested the new rules were put in place in part because Yoder and his colleagues failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, inaction the Cabinet member said is hurting the nation’s economy.
“Clearly we have a broken system,” Vilsack said. “Right now, not all that we can grow is being grown, not all that we grow is being harvested because we simply don’t have the hands to pick or harvest or do the work.”
The relatively civil back-and-forth came after Vilsack, a Democrat, toured the BSNF intermodal freight facility in Edgerton.
On Monday, a federal judge in Texas delayed President Barack Obama’s executive order allowing some undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation. The order was to take effect this week.
Republicans applauded the court’s decision but said they would press ahead with plans to defund the order as part of the Department of Homeland Security spending bill now in the Senate.
Democrats in the Senate have blocked consideration of the bill and demanded removal of the immigration section. That has led to the potential shutdown of Homeland Security functions in the next two weeks.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts — also on the tour in Edgerton — struck a conciliatory tone. He suggested a compromise remained possible because “we can’t be in the business of shutting down agencies.”
But Yoder, a fellow Republican, said Democrats should stop their filibuster and allow a vote on the entire bill, including the immigration parts.
Roberts said the Senate will probably take another vote on the bill next week.
He and Vilsack said they have seen progress in negotiations over a work stoppage on the West Coast that has bottled up imports and some farm exports.
They also said they hoped Congress and the White House could reach an agreement allowing quicker negotiations of free trade agreements. Some labor groups and Democrats oppose those discussions, claiming free trade could hurt jobs and wages here.