House and Senate Democrats and Republicans Put Forth Farmworker Immigration Legislation
February 10, 2005
Washington, DC – Bipartisan, bicameral legislation was reintroduced in Washington by Senators Larry Craig (R-ID) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA) and Chris Cannon (R-UT) today that will help address the lack of legal immigration status pervasive in the agricultural sector of the economy.
“It is in stark contrast to the highly polarized debate taking place in the House of Representatives over immigration this week,” said Angela Kelley, Deputy Director of the National Immigration Forum. “This bipartisan bill is a breath of fresh air. From a policy perspective, this is critically important, and a necessary step towards reforming immigration issues impacting the rest of the economy. From a political perspective, this will continue building the momentum for bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform for the rest of the country.”
The Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act (AgJOBS) was worked out in lengthy negotiations between business and labor and would address key aspects of immigration in that sector. If enacted, it would provide a path towards eventual legalization for undocumented agricultural workers who can prove they have worked in the agricultural industry and will continue to work in that industry. It is estimated that half of the 1.6 million agricultural workers in the U.S. are undocumented. The bill will also streamline the existing foreign agricultural worker program so that agricultural employers have legal means to employ future workers.
“We’ve got to address the needs of both agricultural employers and undocumented workers,” Kelley continued. “It is long overdue and will put this vital American industry back on a legal footing.”
Kelley pointed out that the agricultural industry has always operated with distinct laws and regulations from the rest of the economy. She said, however, that this may be a steppingstone to broader immigration reforms.
“The fact that agricultural employers and the farmworkers union, Republicans and Democrats, and the House and the Senate have joined together to address the agricultural immigration reform agenda is remarkable,” Kelley said. “We are hopeful that this same bipartisan, business-labor spirit of cooperation will extend to the comprehensive reform needed for the rest of the economy. We need to do it for the safety and dignity of the hard working immigrants who are vital to our nation’s future.”