The House on Wednesday passed a contentious agricultural bill that would likely put more than a million illegal immigrants on a pathway to legal status as part of what supporters say is a vital modernization of the industry’s workforce — but that immigration hawks blasted as a “large-scale amnesty.”
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act passed 260-165, with support from both Democrats and Republicans. The bill provides a process for undocumented farmworkers to seek a temporary five-and-a-half-year “Certified Agricultural Worker” status if they have worked for approximately six months in the industry in the last two years.
That status can either be renewed indefinitely, or workers (along with their spouses and children) can begin a path to permanent legal status in the form of a green card. That path, according to the legislation, includes background checks and $1,000 fine.
To secure the green card, those who have worked in agriculture for 10 years or more must work for four more years, while those who’ve spent less than a decade in the sector would have to work eight more years. Once workers receive a green card, they are then free to pursue work in fields outside of agriculture.
The bill also streamlines the H-2A agriculture visa program, cutting processing time and costs for visa petitions. And it calls for the Department of Homeland Security to set up a pilot program that would give H-2A workers the ability to change jobs within the sector if they find work within two months…….
The Heritage Foundation described the bill as a “clear cut example of amnesty,” warning that it “threatens the legal immigration system’s legitimacy and incentivizes aliens and farmers to ignore the legal immigration system in the future if it best serves their needs.”