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Immigration reform bill includes solutions for agriculture
by Yvonne Lesicko
On April 16, the Senate Gang of 8 introduced its comprehensive immigration reform bill. The bill includes extensive solutions to ensure agriculture has access to a legal and stable workforce. The Agricultural Workforce Coalition (AWC), of which Farm Bureau is a part, supports this legislation and agrees that it represents an improvement over the current system and deserves support.
The agricultural portion of the legislation includes two critical principles. The first is the creation of a ‘Blue Card’ program for experienced farm workers. Under the ‘Blue Card’ program, experienced agricultural workers can obtain legal status by satisfying criteria such as passing a background check, paying a fine and proving that applicable taxes have been paid. Blue Card workers would be required to continue to work in agriculture before having the opportunity to qualify for a green card.
The second title of the bill establishes an agricultural worker program for future guest workers. The bill creates a new agricultural worker visa program that allows agricultural employers to hire guest workers either under contract or at-will. Visa holders will be able to work in the country under a three-year visa and work for any designated agricultural employer. The program will be administered by the USDA.
Yvonne Lesicko is the senior director of legislative and regulatory policy for Ohio Farm Bureau.
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