The House will vote soon on a bipartisan bill to provide legal status to undocumented farmworkers and to modernize the H-2A agricultural guestworker program — the first agricultural labor reform bill in three decades, said sponsor Rep. Zoe Lofgren.
Dozens of farm groups stood with 44 lawmakers — one-tenth of the U.S. House membership — on Wednesday in support of bipartisan legislation to provide legal status to undocumented farmworkers and to modernize the H-2A agricultural guestworker program. Lead sponsor Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, said “we have hope” of moving the bill quickly as a show of comity in a polarized Congress.
House Republican leaders promised a vote this month on creating a new agricultural guestworker program. But it now appears that vote may be delayed, in part due to inter-party squabbling over more comprehensive immigration reform.
House Republican leaders say they will call votes next week on two immigration bills dealing with so-called Dreamers. The bill favored by conservatives would create, as a sidelight, a new, year-round H-2C visa program for farmworkers.
With immigration legislation stalled in Congress, four members of President Trump’s cabinet said on Thursday that they will modernize the H-2A guestworker program for agricultural labor.
Acceding to demands by conservatives, the House will take up the restrictive Goodlatte-McCaul immigration bill during the third week of June and then follow that with a new vote on the farm bill, said Majority Whip Steve Scalise on Monday.
The White House says it will propose a compromise on immigration built on four pillars: “Securing the border and closing legal loopholes; ending extended-family chain migration; canceling the visa lottery; and providing a permanent solution on DACA.” The announcement by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders left open the question of undocumented farmworkers.
The chairmen of the House Judiciary and Homeland Security committees unveiled a broad-scale immigration reform bill that might piggyback on a legislative resolution of the “dreamers” issue.
In announcing his retirement at the end of 2018, House Judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte said his goals in his final year in office include "bolstering enforcement of our immigration laws and reforming the legal immigration system." Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, is the sponsor of divisive legislation to create a year-round H-2C agricultural guestworker program to replace seasonal H-2A visas.
The United Farm Workers union likened legislation for a new guestworker program, scheduled for a vote today in the House Judiciary Committee, to the post-war bracero program in that it would "undermine the wages and working conditions of all agricultural workers." The bill, by Judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte, will be considered at the same session as a bill to require all employers to use the E-Verify system to check if applicants can work legally.