Florida Congressman Champions Immigration Reform, Mandatory E-Verify for Agriculture Workers

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balalrt, R-Fla., is one of the main supporters on Capitol Hill of the “Farm Workforce Modernization Act” which reforms the current H-2A agricultural guestworker program and creates a merit-based visa program while mandating the use of E-Verify to check immigration status.

Diaz-Balart along with U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofrgren, D-Calfi., Dan New House, R-Wash., Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., Mike Simpson, R-Id., and Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif. showcased the bill on Wednesday as Lofrgren introduced it. More than 40 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle lined up to back the proposal, including Diaz-Balart and U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Fla., from the Florida delegation.

After months of negotiations , the bill creates “program for agricultural workers in the United States to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment and contribution to the U.S. agricultural economy” and reforms the H-SA program to be “more responsive and user-friendly for employers and provides access to the program for industries with year-round labor needs.” The bill also mandates the use of E-Verify for all agricultural employment though it will be phased-in and offers “dues process for authorized workers who are incorrectly rejected by the system.”

“The success of our farmers, growers, and producers is essential not only for our economy but for our national security. For far too long, we’ve suffered from a broken H2A visa system—making it difficult for farmers to hire the workforce necessary to provide to the American people,” said Diaz-Balart on Wednesday. “This bill would allow us to continue to grow and produce food in our country, while proving a solution that strengthens economic and national security, offers stability and permanence to agricultural workers, adheres to the rule of law, modernizes our antiquated H2A visa system, and bolsters the economy. I’m proud to lead this important legislation, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues as we pursue a good-faith, bipartisan solution for our nation’s farmers.”

“The men and women who work America’s farms feed the nation. But, farmworkers across the country are living and working with uncertainty and fear, contributing to the destabilization of farms across the nation,” said Lofgren. “Our bill offers stability for American farms by providing a path to legal status for farmworkers. In addition, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act addresses the nation’s future labor needs by modernizing an outdated system for temporary workers, while ensuring fair wages and workplace conditions.”

The bill has the support of some stakeholders including the United Farm Workers (UWF), The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the National Coalition of Farm Cooperatives (NCFC).

The bill has several committee stops ahead as it was sent to the U.S. House Judiciary, the Ways and Means, Education and Labor and the Financial Services Committees. So far, there is no companion bill in the U.S. Senate.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

 

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