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House passes farmworker immigration bill

House passes farmworker immigration bill

The bill provides a path to legal status for more than 1 million farmworkers

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

The U.S. House of Representatives have sent a bill designed to provide immigrant farmworkers with path to legal status, to the Senate.

On Thursday, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021 received bipartisan support in a 247-174 vote.

Should the Senate pass the bill and President Biden signs it into law, the bill would establish a set of parameters for farmworkers to help them achieve legal status in the U.S.

About half of the country’s 2.4 million farmworkers are undocumented, Farmworker Justice said in November 2019.

To get legal status, the applicants would first have to show at least 180 days of ag employment over two years.

Qualified applicants would then receive a five-year renewable ag visa. Completing 100 days of ag work in a year would renew the visa. Applicants with ag experience but don’t meet the necessary criteria can apply for the H-2A visas.

The bill would also provide an option for farmworkers to achieve permanent resident status in the country.

To receive this designation, a farmworker who has worked in ag in the U.S. for at least 10 years before the bill became law must work another four years before they can apply.

If a farmworker has worked in U.S. ag for fewer than 10 years, he or she must work eight more years before they’re allowed to apply for permanent resident status.

In addition, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021 would improve the H-2A program overall and establish a mandatory, nationwide E-Verify system for all ag employment.

Industry organizations support the bill.

This legislation would reduce the red tape farmers are faced with and help protect the workers who come into the country.

“For agricultural employers, it will streamline and allow for greater flexibility in the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program, making it simpler to find and hire qualified employees,” Rob Larew, president of the National Farmers Union, said in a statement. “For workers, it will strengthen protections as well as establish a route to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment.”

Some House Reps., who voted against the bill are concerned its rules could be taken advantage of.

Some immigrants could try to use these new rules to achieve legal status without meeting the requirements, said. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Az.).

“Promising amnesty to those who are already here illegally encourages more aliens to come illegally,” he said in the House on Thursday.

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