Op-Ed: Immigration reform that Republicans can love, or at least vote for

Congress is in the midst of an active lame duck session. A bipartisan coalition of senators has reaffirmed marriage equality, and 16 Republicans in the upper chamber have signaled they will join Democrats in backing the election counting reform bill. With the dust settled over the midterm elections and a few retirements around the corner, collaboration is in the air.

Immigration advocates are using this rare outburst of bipartisanship to push for legislative opportunities that have lurked near the finish line for the past two years. While a permanent solution for dreamers might grab the most headlines, the pending law with the potential for the widest bipartisan support is the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.

After passing the House with the support of 30 Republicans and all but one Democrat, he now finds himself before the upper chamber where Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet and Idaho Republican Michael Crapo were negotiating a Senate version that would support the Reach threshold for a floor could vote every day.

House legislation represents a hard-fought compromise. It aims to provide a path to legalization for the millions of undocumented farm workers currently residing in the United States. At the same time, it simplifies and improves the existing H-2A visa program for “guest workers” for the agricultural sector, makes it easier for farmers and ranchers to import foreign workers, and improves some working conditions for temporary workers.

There is broad democratic support. The party has long tried to address the precarious status of undocumented farm workers and reform aspects of the H-2A guest worker program. Some Democrats would prefer more and faster benefits for immigrant farm workers, but they still voted almost unanimously in favor of the compromise bill.

There are also compelling reasons why 13 House Republicans supported the bill and their Senate counterparts should join them in supporting it. The Agricultural Personnel Modernization Act addresses a variety of conservative values ​​and concerns.

According to the November report of the US Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index, Americans have not faced this high food inflation since 1979, with prices rising 11.4% in the last year. Inflation has been a focus for nearly all Republicans over the past year, and the proposed legislation has the potential to help address rising food costs in a meaningful way.

A September report from the Cato Institute explained how reforms integrated into legislation would reduce farm labor costs by about $1 billion in the first year and $1.8 billion in the second, “resulting in more hired workers, higher productivity and lower prices would lead to consumers.”

Republicans are also pushing for E-Verify, the web-based system that employers can use to confirm that employees are eligible to work in the United States. This law makes an E-Verify program mandatory for all farm workers 30 days after the final rules are made by the Executive Administration of the Legislature. It also outlines changes to the verification process, including a photo matching system that will likely make it better at identifying unauthorized workers.

Also important to the prevailing Republican position, the legislation underscores that certified farm workers remain ineligible for many forms of federally funded public benefits, such as state and federal revenue.

After all, it will be rural America, where the GOP thrives, that will benefit most directly from this legislation. In addition to raising tax revenues in some deep-red states, the legislation will boost rental and real estate markets in rural communities with vouchers and grants for 10-year farmworker housing and funding for new housing developments.

Here is how the legislation passed by the House of Representatives would work:

Veteran, law-abiding undocumented farm workers can apply for certified farm worker status, which means they can step out of the shadows and work legally.

CAW candidates would not be deported while their applications were being reviewed, and employers would not be penalized for previously hiring them.

The certificate would grant 5 ½ years of legal residence (including workers’ dependents), with the possibility of an extension. Certified farm workers who meet additional residency and employment requirements may apply for permanent residency in the United States and then apply for citizenship.

Those who do not qualify for CAW status are granted access to H-2A visas, as are newly hired foreign workers. Those already here would not need to return to their home country to apply for the H-2As as they do today. This sensible change would reduce disruptions in the labor supply.

The legislation also streamlines the H-2A process for employers, sets wage standards for farm workers and sets the rate at which those wages can increase – all tools to stabilize labor costs over the long term.

Under the new law, H2-A farm workers will be guaranteed minimum working hours, the implementation of “heat sickness” protection plans to prevent serious injury while on the job, and the freedom to have one employer work for another – something they are currently forbidden from doing , which suppressed wages for all workers. Not only accommodation for farm workers is intended, but also transport to and from the fields.

Republicans often emphasize that immigrants must “line up and wait their turn.” The Farm Workforce Modernization Act honors this idea, but also recognizes the crucial undocumented workforce that is already here. Through the proposed CAW program and changes to H-2A visa rules, the legislation imposes serious residency and work requirements before immigrants can gain a secure and stable place in society.

This legislation is an opportunity to address an important part of our broken immigration system, closing gaps in farm labor and addressing priorities for both parties. Since the bill has already passed the House of Representatives, it creates a special opportunity for the Senate during the lame duck session. If the House of Lords does not act, the opportunity dies when the session ends.

DW Gibson is Research Director at Ideaspace.com and author of 14 Miles: Building the Border Wall.

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-12-05/farmworker-modernization-act-congress-immigration-reform Op-Ed: Immigration reform that Republicans can love, or at least vote for

Alley Einstein

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