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Farm Workforce Modernization Act Charts a Bipartisan Path to the Legalization of Farmworkers

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Immigrants Put Food on America’s Table, Grow Our Economy and Turbo-Charge Our Ag Exports

Led by Democrat Zoe Lofgren of California and Republican Dan Newhouse of Washington, a bipartisan group of legislators announced today the introduction of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019. They were joined by an array of key Republican and Democratic House members including Reps. Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Mike Simpson (R-ID).

The legislation will legalize farmworkers by putting them and their families on a path to citizenship; improve existing temporary worker programs that admit workers to be employed in American agriculture; and implement electronic employment verification in the agricultural sector. The bill is the product of careful negotiation across the political aisle and a compromise that balances the interests of farmworkers, their employers and the broader American public to ensure that agriculture continues to be a vital bedrock of the American economy. 

The following is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Farmworkers, the vast majority of whom are undocumented immigrants, put food on America’s table, grow our economy and turbo-charge our agricultural exports. 

Every day, millions of immigrant workers in the United States go into the hot sun or the cold of dawn to do the backbreaking work of growing fruits and vegetables that feed America and the world. Their work is undercompensated and underappreciated, and most enjoy neither the full protection of American labor laws nor the rights and responsibilities of American citizenship. This legislation creates a way for these men and women to earn legal status, protects their families from exploitation, deportation and family separation, and work towards citizenship.

Trade wars, climate change and immigration restrictions have hit American agriculture hard, jeopardizing the very foundation of America’s economy. So leaders in business, labor and in Congress are working together across political divides to craft a policy that stabilizes and modernizes farm work in a way that values the workers and strengthens the industry.

As the Republican Party under President Trump lurches in the direction of nativism, the bipartisan nature of this bill is noteworthy. It is based on the reality that immigration and immigrant workers keep rural communities thriving, and that the way forward is to bring together representatives from across the aisle on the inside, and agribusiness and the United Farmworkers of America on the outside. 

This is not the only aspect of our dysfunctional immigration system that needs to be reformed. We need a broad legalization program for all undocumented workers, we need an expanded and reformed legal immigration system for workers, families and refugees, and we need a regulatory regime that values immigrants, due process, human rights and American values. None of that is in place today. 

We salute the members of Congress and the key constituencies that worked to bring this bill forward. It is a bright light of hope in an otherwise dark time.