Bill to Legalize Farm Laborers Introduced

On January 17, 2019, Rep. Zoe Lofgren introduced H.R. 641,  An Act to improve agricultural job opportunities, benefits, and security for aliens in the United States and for other purposes.  Maine’s Representative Chellie Pingree is an original co-sponsor of the bill.

H.R. 641 would provide a path to permanent legal status for farm workers, whether they have worked here on H-2A temporary agricultural visas, or are undocumented.  Pew Research Center estimates that immigrants make up about half of all farm workers, and 26% of farm workers are undocumented.

Farmers have experienced shortages of laborers for years, causing them to lose crops and money, including in Maine.  Even with increased wages, native born U.S. citizens don’t flock to farm work.

H.R. 641 would allow existing farm workers, regardless of their immigration status, to get a “blue card”, after passing background and security checks and a rigorous application process.   The blue card would allow them to live and work legally in the United States for up to 8 years.  If they perform a prescribed amount of farm work during those years, they could gain permanent residency following another rigorous application process and further background and security checks.

This bill would benefit workers, who can come out of the shadows, and farm operations and the economy.   It remains to be seen how it will move through Congress.