According to a report from Lake Coast News, representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-California) and Dan Newhouse (R-Washington) have reintroduced the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The bill, which previously passed in the House of Representatives before stalling in the U.S. Senate, seeks to reform the country’s agricultural immigration system. In this article, our immigration law attorney provides an overview of the 2021 reintroduction of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.
Farm Workforce Modernization Act: Explained
On March 3rd, 2021, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act was reintroduced into the U.S. congress. In a press release, Representative Lofgren describes the bill as an important step to help support the “men and women who work America’s farms [that] feed the nation.” Here are three key things to know about the Farm Workforce Modernization Act:
- A Path to Legal Status for Tens of Thousands of Immigrant Farmworkers: The key provision of the bill would provide a path to legal status in the United States for many undocumented farmworkers. If enacted, the law would create a temporary status called a “Certified Agricultural Worker (CAW).” For qualified individuals—those who spent at least 180 days working as a farmworker in the past two years—this would be a renewable legal status. For qualifying farmworkers who have spent more than 10 years in the United States and who agree to pay a $1,000 fine, a green card would be available.
- Enhanced E-Verify Requirements for Agricultural Companies: Beyond creating a new path to legal status for certain undocumented farmworkers, the law would require many agricultural companies to abide by enhanced E-verify requirements. Simply defined, E-verify is an electronic system that employers can use to check on an applicant’s/employee’s immigration status.
The California Farm Bureau Supports the Law: In recent days, the California Farm Bureau has come out in favor of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. As the organization’s president Jamie Johansson informed reporters, “this bill would create meaningful changes that would ease chronic employee shortages and recognize the value of farm work.”
It remains to be seen whether or not the bill can get enough support to become law. While the bill does have significant bipartisan support—and the backing of some immigrant rights groups and business groups—the current version of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act is very similar to the legislation that passed the House but stalled in the Senate early last year. Though, notably, control of the Senate has changed hands since that time. It is possible that it could be included as part of a most comprehensive immigration reform package.
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