On October 30, 24 Democrats ad 20 Republicans in the House filed legislation to bring unauthorized farm workers into legal status. The revival of a push to advance farm workers, a staple of immigration reform proposals since the early 2000s, can be seen as a sign that Congress is ready to challenge Trump’s immigration policies. Protection of the farm workforce is a priority of many politicians with large farming constituencies.
According to the Wall Street Journal, The accord also would provide a path to citizenship for the more than one million farmworkers estimated to be already living in the U.S. illegally. Farmworkers who can show they have spent at least three months in the previous two years working in agriculture can apply for a new five-year visa, which would require continued work in the sector for the visa’s duration.
Workers who have lived in the country for at least 10 years could apply for a green card if they work four more years in the industry. If a farmworker has been in the industry for less than 10 years, they must put in an additional eight years to become eligible for a green card. Green-card holders are eligible to become U.S. citizens, typically after five years.
In exchange, the agriculture industry would be required to use E-Verify, an electronic system that allows employers to check applicants’ immigration status. The industry has strongly resisted such a requirement, as about half of farmworkers aren’t legally authorized to work in the U.S., according to the National Agricultural Workers Survey, which is run by a Labor Department agency.