House Reaches Agricultural Immigration Reform Agreement

House members introduced the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which is a bipartisan bill that would offer a path to citizenship for undocumented farmworkers. The bill also establishes funding for farmworker housing and aid programs. The purpose of this bill is to modernize the H-2A visa guest worker program and ensure worker rights to safe working conditions and fair wages. The bipartisan authors of the bill, Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-California) and Dan Newhouse (R-Washington), called it a compromise solution that offers stability for American farms.

Under the proposed legislation, an uncapped number of visas would become available for farmworkers through a merit-based system, called Certified Agricultural Worker (CAW) status. These visas would last for five-and-a-half years and be renewable. Existing undocumented immigrant farmworkers would be eligible to enroll in the program if they worked at least 180 days over two years or 100 days over three years in the agricultural industry. Farmworkers also would undergo a criminal background check.

Applications would be available for only 18 months after the effective date of the law, with the option for the Department of Homeland Security to extend the application period for an additional one year. CAW applicants would receive interim work authorization after applying for this visa program. Qualified workers would not have to return to their home countries to apply.

House Reaches Agricultural Immigration Reform Agreement

Individuals who complete eight years of CAW status would be eligible to apply for green cards. A path to citizenship via green card also would be available for individuals who completed four years of CAW status and who have ten years of previous agricultural work experience.

The bill also would establish a mandatory nationwide E-Verify system for all agricultural workers. Various organizations representing both farmers and farmworkers support the bill, including Western Growers, United Farmworkers, National Milk Producers Federation, and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. An experienced Texas immigration attorney can help you with all aspects of immigration law. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case and present your options. Finally, we can help you make the decisions that will be most beneficial to you based on your circumstances. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

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