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House to begin work on immigration reform, piece by piece

The House will vote on two popular proposals for immigration reform this week, offering a pathway to citizenship for so-called Dreamers and offering legal status to undocumented farmworkers, said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. The ag labor bill would also streamline the H-2A visa for guestworkers.

In an announcement, Hoyer said the House “will consider two bills that would fix our broken immigration system.” Debate on the immigration bills could begin as early as Wednesday. Both were wrapped into a comprehensive immigration reform bill backed by the White House a month ago. Democratic leaders decided to proceed with popular reforms while trying to build support for the full-spectrum bill.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act combines two ideas that unite the agriculture community: legalization of undocumented workers, sought by labor activists, and H-2A reform, sought by employers. The House passed the bill on a bipartisan 260-165 vote in December 2019 but it died in the Senate without action in 2020. Half of farmworkers, perhaps 1.25 million people, are believed to be undocumented. Farmers say it is increasingly difficult to find workers domestically.

The Dreamers bill would enable U.S.-raised immigrant children to earn permanent residence status and create a path to citizenship. It also would apply to people in the country under Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure status. An estimated 2.5 million people are affected by the legislation.

A two-page summary of the farm workforce bill is available here.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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