A bill that grants undocumented farmworkers legal status passed with bipartisan support Wednesday among the US House of Representatives.
The bill is known as the ‘Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019‘. According to Congress the bill will, “Secure the domestic agricultural workforce by establishing a program for agricultural workers in the United States, along with their spouses and minor children, to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment.”
For more than 25 years Executive Director, Juanita Valdez-Cox, has advocated for farmworkers under the organization ‘Lupe’, La Union del Pueblo Entero, a labor rights activist group working to protect American and undocumented farmworkers.
“As a count of last year we have close to a little more than 7,000 members to this union,” Cox said. She believes the bill would create a ripple effect impact in the U.S. agricultural industry. “All of the harvesting in this U.S. is done by…Mexican farmworkers. Mexican farmworkers, many…who are undocumented. It’s hard work not very many people want to do it,” she said.
If the bill is signed into law it would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers. The bill allows eligible workers to request five-year visas for themselves and immediate family members. “It also helps the farmers. It stabilizes the workforce. There would be enough workforce and they won’t be worried because many times when you are an undocumented farmworker you’re always worried that immigration may come into the fields and then deport you,” she explained.
Congress also believes this legislation would make the employment process for farm employers easier. According to Congressman Vincente Gonzalez, the bill would “Ensure an agricultural workforce for the future by reforming the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program to provide more flexibility for employers while ensuring critical protections for workers,”
According to a Pew Research study, undocumented immigrants make up nearly 15 percent of the agricultural industry workforce. The bill is one step closer to becoming law as it heads to Senate.