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House Passes the Farm Workforce Modernization Act on Bipartisan Vote

Wall Street Journal writer Siobhan Hughes reported on Thursday that, “The House passed two bills providing pathways to citizenship for certain categories of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, in a show of bipartisan support for narrow measures that still risk getting tied up in a long-running impasse over how to repair the immigration system.

“By 228-197, the House voted to create a path to citizenship for young immigrants known as Dreamers who came to the U.S. before the age of 19 and have lived in the country illegally, as well as hundreds of thousands of immigrants living in the U.S. under a humanitarian program that provides temporary protection to people suffering from extraordinary conditions like war or natural disasters.”

The Journal article added that,

A second bill, passed by a vote of 247-174 with 30 Republicans in favor and a single Democrat against, sets out a path to citizenship for farmworkers in the country illegally and their family members.

“Both bills have been expected to pass the Democratic-led House with support from some Republicans sympathetic to the people affected, seeing them as being in the country through no fault of their own or as essential members of the workforce.

Labor Cost Share of Total Gross Revenues. USDA- Economic Research Service.

“The fate of both bills in the evenly divided Democratic-led Senate is uncertain.”

New York Times writer Nicholas Fandos reported on Thursday that, “The Farm Workforce Modernization Act deals with groups seldom seen or noticed by much of the public: the scores of migrant agricultural workers who grow and harvest much of the country’s food supply.

“Unlike the Dreamers bill, it is the product of lengthy bipartisan negotiations and haggling with farmworkers and their employers. The resulting compromise would create a program for farmworkers, their spouses and their children to gain legal status if they continue to work in agriculture and pay a $1,000 fine; alter the temporary agricultural worker visa program to stabilize wage fluctuation and include the dairy industry; and institute a mandatory, national E-Verify program for employers to confirm individuals are qualified to work.

Proponents of the bill say the changes will help bring hundreds of thousands of farmworkers out of the shadows, preserve the flow of migrant workers who are willing to do hard labor that Americans increasingly will not and promote stability in the nation’s food supply that has become more urgent during the pandemic.”

Associated Press writer Alan Fram reported on Friday that, “Nine House Republicans joined all Democrats in voting for the Dreamers measure but 30 GOP lawmakers backed the farm workers bill, giving it a more bipartisan hue.”

And Bloomberg writers Laura Litvan and Billy House reported on Thursday that, “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has adopted a piecemeal approach to immigration, lacking the votes for President Joe Biden’s more comprehensive proposal.

H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program. USDA- Economic Research Service.

“But even the narrow bills on the House floor Thursday face a tougher sell in the Senate where they would need the support of at least 10 Republicans under the chamber’s current rules.”

The Bloomberg article pointed out that, “Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said this week that Biden’s comprehensive plan would have a tough time passing in this Congress — and even the House’s piecemeal measures are in doubt in the Senate.”

Thursday’s article noted that, ‘There was more bipartisan support for the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, H.R. 1603, which would provide temporary status for certain agricultural workers. It would create a pathway for workers to get a green card by paying a $1,000 fine and engaging in additional agricultural work, depending on how long they’ve had jobs on U.S. farms. It would also streamline the process of getting a temporary visa for farm work and require electronic employment verification.

“Pennsylvania Representative Glenn Thompson, the ranking Republican on the Agriculture Committee, said he was voting for the bill, but he hopes the Senate would improve it to better resolve the shortage of legal workers for the nation’s ranchers, farms and dairies.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the social media manager for the farmdoc project at the University of Illinois. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily FarmPolicy.com News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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