Farmworker residency bill with path to legal status passes House, moves to Senate.
- “This is a chance to solve a problem for America,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who spearheaded the bill.
- The last time congress addressed agricultural labor was in 1986.
“This bill…does stabilize the workforce,” said Lofgren. “We have farmworkers who have been here a very long time without their papers, living in fear and in some cases, being arrested and deported. We need to allow them to get an agricultural worker visa that is temporary and renewable so they can do the work we need them to do and their employers need them to do.”
If approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Donald Trump, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act would also change regulations surrounding H-2A temporary farmworkers, shifting how salaries are determined and adding new, temporary visas with a longer working period.
Grower advocates say this would relieve them of an unfair monetary burden while providing them with year-round labor.
“Agriculture has made its case for a narrow, surgical fix to the farm labor crisis,” Western Growers Association President and CEO Tom Nassif said in a prepared statement. “The rationale, that foreign hands will harvest our fruits and vegetables and perform many of the other skilled jobs required on American farms, has long been accepted on both sides of the aisle.
“All that remains now is for the Senate and President Trump to act,” Nassif said.
The majority of farmworkers in the U.S. are concentrated in California, where more than 420,000 farmworkers cultivate and harvest the crops that feed people across the nation.
Monterey County’s 2018 ‘Farmworker Housing And Action Plan’ for the Salinas and Pajaro Valleys shows more than 91,000 agricultural workers lived and worked in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties in 2016.
U.C. Davis estimates that up to 60% of California’s farmworkers are undocumented. The Center for Farmworker Families’ number is even higher, estimating that approximately 75% are undocumented, leaving them vulnerable to deportation.