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Agricultural Labor Reform to be Considered by Senate
by Yvonne Lesicko
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has passed Immigration Reform that creates a new legal status for agricultural workers: a Blue Card. The Blue Card would be available to agricultural workers who are currently in the country illegally, and have worked in the American agricultural industry for at least 100 days over the last two years.
Applicants would be required to pay a $400 fee, show they have paid their taxes and have completed a background check. Blue Card holders would be eligible for permanent legal residency in five years, half the time of other adult immigrants in the country illegally.
In addition, the bill would establish a new Visa program that allows agricultural employers to hire guestworkers, either under contract or at will. Visa holders would be able to work in the U.S. under a three-year visa and work for any designated agricultural employer. The program would be administered by USDA.
The bill's agriculture provisions are intended to ensure farmers can maintain their experienced workforce that are in undocumented status and to replace the current guestworker program, H-2A, which most farmers consider unworkable. The new program would let workers work on farms year-round and would be available to all types of farms.
The full Senate is expected to consider to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) the second week of June. Click here for more information on the efforts being made to bring about agricultural labor reform.
Yvonne Lesicko is the senior director of legislative and regulatory affairs for Ohio Farm Bureau