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Ag Impact of Immigration Reform Bill

by Mike Austin

As expected the Senate did approve by a comfortable margin of 68-32, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. what happens in the House is a whole different story. But for now lets look at how this will impact the Agricultural labor force. 

Under this bill:

* Current undocumented farm worker would be eligible to obtain legal status through a new Blue Card Program if they choose to remain working in Agriculture.

* After a minimum of five, workers who fulfill their Blue Card requirements would become eligible to apply for a Green Card, providing they have no outstanding taxes, no convictions and pay a fine

* A new guest worker program would also be established providing two options

 A) An "At-Will option" will allow workers to enter the country to accept a specific farm job with an authorized ag employer, under a three year Visa.They are then allowed to move within the country at will for any other authorized agricultural position

B) A "Contract -Based option" will allow workers to enter the country to a accept a specific contract position for a specific amount of work from an authorized employer

* All guest workers will be paid an agreed upon wage under the terms of the agreement

* There is a Visa cap for the first five years of the program while current workers are participating in the Blue Card program. The Secretary of Agriculture does have the authority to modify the cap.

Speaking to numerous agricultural sources they feel this is a good and equitable proposal that provides a stable work force for agriculture, it makes immigrants earn their chance at citizenship and also enhances our abilities to secure our borders. many agricultural organizations were grateful to the Senate for allowing them to be a part of the dialogue that resulted in the final bill.

Now again this is anything but a done deal. House leadership is stating it may not even bring the Senate bill to the floor and that they want to write their own immigration package. There are also some conservative lawmakers who say they won't support any bill that allows illegals to become U.S. citizens.

So the road ahead is far from smooth, but at least for now, the first steps have been taken.