Maryland's seafood processing industry is once again in the crossfire of the battle over national immigration policy, and the economic pain could be severe.
Nearly 70,000 foreign workers who have received temporary visas in past years to work as crab-pickers and food processors in Eastern Shore plants will be locked out this year unless Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and other members of the state's delegation can dismantle a congressional roadblock standing in the way of legislation that would provide their visas.
Congress should recognize that these workers and the businesses that employ them have been participating in an immigration program that works and give a green light to these urgently needed visas. If Congress won't act, President Bush should be persuaded to issue an executive order increasing the number of visas available. These foreign workers help support the jobs of thousands of Marylanders and the economic well-being of hundreds of businesses, watermen and small farms.
Senator Mikulski has repeatedly negotiated exemptions from visa limits in the past. But this time, the House Congressional Hispanic Caucus is blocking a measure that Ms. Mikulski has steered through the Senate. However, opposing this program isn't going to produce the national immigration reforms caucus members seek.
At a time when the national economy is seriously troubled, the temporary visas should be approved and the Hispanic caucus should focus its efforts on the bigger fight over immigration policy that awaits the next Congress.