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    Immigration Reform Takes a Step Forward

    U.S. Senate passage sends measure to the U.S. House of Representatives.

    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Hispanic organizations and retail associations are applauding the U.S. Senate's passage of a landmark immigration bill that would allow millions of people to become U.S. citizens.

    With a 68-32 bipartisan vote, the Senate's approval of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 moves the issue of immigration reform to the U.S. House of Representatives, where the legislation faces an uncertain future. Conservatives in the Republican-led House generally oppose citizenship for undocumented immigrants, according to a report by The Associated Press.

    "To our friends in the House, we ask for your consideration and we stand ready to sit down and negotiate with you," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a co-sponsor of the bill. "You may have different views on different aspects of this issue, but all of us share the same goal, and that is to take 11 million people out of the shadows, secure our borders and make sure that this is the nation of opportunity and freedom."

    At a news conference, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the House would not simply take up the Senate bill, as some Democrats and outside advocates are calling for, but would chart its own legislation with a focus on border security. How exactly Boehner will proceed remains unclear, but the speaker has called a special meeting of his majority Republicans for July 10 to go over options, the AP reported.

    That uncertainty is not enough to dampen the excitement surrounding the Senate vote:

    National Retail Federation
    "The National Retail Federation [NRF] applauds the U.S. Senate for taking the first significant step toward comprehensive immigration reform," said David French, senior vice president for government relations at NRF. "The broad-based, bipartisan vote aimed at fixing our broken immigration system provides a signal of hope that Congress can come together to address some of the nation’s most-pressing public policy and fiscal challenges."

    He added that NRF will continue to look for opportunities to improve and strengthen the bill as it moves to the House. He pointed to sections of the bill that tackle employer verification or e-verify provisions.

    "Retailers and the business community alike need a bill that is flexible and workable within their business models," French said.

    National Grocery Association
    "I applaud the Senate for passing comprehensive bipartisan legislation today to overhaul America's immigration system for the first time since 1986," said National Grocery Association President and CEO Peter J. Larkin. "While no bill is ever perfect, this legislation is an important step in the right direction by embracing comprehensive reform that addresses the real challenges facing our nation today, while ensuring protections for employers acting in good faith."

    Like NRF, Larkin said his association is looking forward to working with the House to get the measure passed.

    The United Fresh Produce Association
    The United Fresh Produce Association pointed out that the immigration reform bill includes agricultural labor provisions that secure access to a stable, legal workforce.

    "We applaud the Senate for seizing the opportunity to enact immigration reform that is desperately needed in the fresh produce industry and many other sectors of agriculture," said United Fresh CEO Tom Stenzel. "This bill will ease the burden on agricultural employers, create more jobs along the entire supply chain and boost the economy. We appreciate the efforts of our allies in the Agriculture Workforce Coalition and United Farm Workers with whom we worked to advance provisions that will provide a legal and stable workforce for fruit and vegetable growers."

    Americas Society and Council of the Americas
    Americas Society and Council of the Americas (AS/COA) also welcomed the Senate's passage of the bill and urged the House to bring forward bipartisan legislation that reflects the basic compromises of the Senate bill so that immigration reform can be enacted this year.

    "The broad support for this bill once again shows that immigrants and immigration reform are fundamental to our nation's economic competitiveness and to the social fabric of cities across our country," said AS/COA President and CEO Susan Segal.

    Click here to read the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.

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