Senate Republicans threw up barriers on Wednesday to a House-passed bill that would give legal status to undocumented farmworkers and streamline the H-2A guestworker program. They called for action first to tighten control of the U.S.-Mexico border and vowed to vote against "amnesty" for undocumented farmworkers, who are estimated to make up half of the agricultural labor force.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she will work with fellow senators to give legal status to undocumented farmworkers and streamline the H-2A visa system for agricultural guestworkers. "It's time to give farmers the help they need and protect the essential workers who work hard to put food on our tables," said Feinstein, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In a 247-174 vote, the Democrat-led House passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act on Thursday, which would provide a path to legal status for almost one million immigrant farmworkers and reform the existing H-2A visa program for agricultural workers.
The Democrat-controlled House put a bill giving legal status to undocumented farmworkers and streamlining the H-2A guestworker program on the legislative fast track on Tuesday. Party leaders hope to score a victory this week on a popular idea — an earlier version of the bill passed with bipartisan backing in 2019 — even as support for comprehensive immigration reform is lacking.
Rebuffed by the Senate last year, two U.S. representatives on Wednesday reintroduced their bipartisan bill to create legal status for undocumented farmworkers and to streamline the H-2A visa program for guestworkers.
Democrats introduced companion bills in the House and Senate on Thursday for a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration law. The bills, backed by President Biden, include an expedited three-year path to citizenship for some undocumented farmworkers.
Immigration reform, including legal status for farmworkers, is vital for assuring U.S. economic strength, said chairman Jerry Nadler of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Congress has deadlocked repeatedly over immigration, whether comprehensive legislation or piecemeal reforms, but President Biden, on his first day in office, called for a thorough overhaul of immigration law.
The estimated 1.25 million undocumented farmworkers in the United States would immediately gain legal status under the immigration reform bill unveiled by President Joe Biden on Wednesday, his first day in office. If passed, the bill would make the farmworkers eligible for green cards and, after three years, open a pathway for becoming U.S. citizens.
U.S. farmers and ranchers face a labor shortage because “no one in America wants to do this kind of work anymore,” said the president of the largest U.S. farm group on Monday in calling for year-round agricultural guestworkers. “Immigration reform is absolutely critical,” agreed Beth Ford, …
In a lawsuit accusing the Trump administration of trying to suppress wages, farmworker groups asked a federal judge to set aside a Labor Department rule on pay to agricultural guestworkers that could cut their earnings by $170 million over a decade. The Labor Department rule, which indirectly affects wages for all farmworkers, is scheduled to take effect on Dec. 21.