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.
The House will vote on two popular proposals for immigration reform this week, offering a pathway to citizenship for so-called Dreamers and offering legal status to undocumented farmworkers, said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. The ag labor bill would also streamline the H-2A visa for guestworkers.
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.
President Trump took credit for billions of dollars in trade war payments to U.S. farmers during the final presidential debate on Thursday. "I just gave $28 billion to our farmers," said Trump. "Taxpayers' money," interjected Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the only reference to agriculture, lasting less than a minute, in the two debates between the candidates.
Despite strong and bipartisan House support for farm labor reform, President Trump is unlikely to sign a reform bill, now stalled in the Senate, if it reaches him, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Wednesday.