Immigration Policy: An Update on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019

According to reporting from the California Farm Bureau, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 has made it through the House Committee on the Judiciary by a margin of 18 to 12—a key step on the path to becoming law. Introduced by lead sponsors that include California Democrat Zoe Lofgren and California Republican Doug LaMalfa, the legislation is designed to improve the country’s agricultural guestworker system. Among other things, it creates a new type of employment visa. Here, our Los Angeles immigration lawyer highlights the key elements of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. 

Three Things to Know About the Farm Workforce Modernization Act

1. A Possible Pathway to Legal Status for Agricultural Workers

The American agricultural sector relies heavily on the contributions of immigrant labor. Unfortunately, those same immigrants are not always protected by U.S. law—a significant number of these workers are unauthorized. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act provides certain immigrants with a pathway to obtain legal status. 

Through a new temporary worker program called Certified Agricultural Worker (CAW), renewable visas would be created. CAW visas would be available for qualifying immigrants who have worked at least 180 days in agricultural employment in the last two years.

Notably, as the bill is currently drafted, the CAW visa would provide a path to a green card for certain agricultural sector employees. After holding a CAW visa in good standing for either four years or eight years, depending on employment experience, an applicant would be eligible to apply for permanent residency. 

2. More Strict ‘E-Verify’ Requirements on Employers 

Beyond the reforms to make the agricultural guestworker program easier and more efficient, the bill also puts strict legal requirements on employers to verify their workers’ immigration status. Specifically, agricultural employers would be required to phase in the use of the e-verify system to ensure that workers have the proper authorization to work in the United States. E-verify is a computer system that can be used by employers to compare worker information with records in government databases. 

3. The Bill is Set for a Vote in December 

Currently, the legislation is set to be taken up by the full House of Representatives in December. Of course, even if the bill passes through the House, it still needs to make it through the Republican-controlled Senate and past a potential veto from President Trump. That being said, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act does have significant bipartisan support. The bill’s 46 cosponsors are made up of 24 Democrats and 22 Republicans. Our legal team will keep a close watch on any developments. 

Call Our Los Angeles Immigration Lawyer Now

At the Law Office of Joshua L. Goldstein, PC, we assist immigrants with all types of employment visa cases. If you have any questions or concerns about agricultural visas, we are more than happy to help. To schedule an appointment, please get in touch with us today by calling (213) 262-2000. Our law firm represents clients in Los Angeles and all around Southern California.