Immigration and Labor Rights

White House Issues Report on Agriculture and Immigration Policy

Last week the Executive Office of the President released the report, “Fixing Our Broken Immigration System: The Economic Benefits to Agriculture and Rural Communities.” The report illustrates farmworkers’ important role in our nation’s agricultural success and the ways in which immigration reform with a path to citizenship would boost productivity and strengthen rural communities. The report provides valuable information demonstrating the contributions farmworkers make to their local communities, economies and our nation as a whole. For example, it states that net farm income in 2013 is expected to reach $128.2 billion – the highest level since 1973, after adjusting for inflation. In addition, our trade balance has benefited from farmworkers as the value of our exports of labor-intensive commodities has reached record-breaking levels. The report also demonstrates the need for immigration reform with a path to citizenship and a viable temporary worker visa program that includes needed worker protections.

The White House report touts the benefits of a path to citizenship to the farmworkers themselves. The agricultural stakeholder agreement in the Senate immigration reform bill, S. 744 would provide farmworkers and their families with needed security to invest in their own skills and education and in their local communities. Providing an opportunity for undocumented workers to earn legal immigration status would also help alleviate exploitative treatment of farmworkers in the workplace. The report cites to studies indicating that legalization would “improve worker productivity and ultimately result in higher average wages for all workers…Ensuring every farmworker is paid a fair and decent wage will revitalize rural economies so that Americans can continue to contribute to our 21st century economy from our nation’s rural landscapes.”

It is important to note that the White House relies on a particularly low estimate of the total number of farmworkers (1.1 million). Farmworker Justice and others have more confidence in studies that estimate there to be 2.0 to 2.4 million farmworkers. Most observers agree that more than 50% of farmworkers lack immigration status.

The report concludes with statements from key agriculture and rural stakeholders, including statements from Bruce Goldstein, President of Farmworker Justice; Arturo Rodriguez, President of United Farm Workers; and several major growers’ associations, expressing support for the agriculture provisions of S. 744 and urging the House to take action.
 

Farmworker Immigration Reform Update 8/2/13

-Farmworker Leaders Arrested in Civil Disobedience Action for Immigration Reform

Ramón Ramírez, President of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN) and Chair of Farmworker Justice’s Board of Directors, and Giev Kashkooli, Vice President of the UFW, were arrested yesterday on Capitol Hill along with 39 other immigrants’ rights, labor and faith leaders. The protest was against the House’s inability to pass a bill that contains a pathway to citizenship and keeps families together. Advocates marched past the Capitol building and blocked traffic between the Capitol and the House office buildings. The civil disobedience served to kick off a series of events planned for the August recess to urge the House to take up comprehensive immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants. See photos of the event on our Facebook.

Earlier in the day, the UFW joined United We Dream and America’s Voice to help deliver 224 American-grown cantaloupes to Members of the House of Representatives. The cantaloupes were given to Members who voted in favor of Rep. Steve King’s proposal to end the Deferred Action program for DREAMers and other uses of prosecutorial discretion in deportation cases. The cantaloupes were affixed with the message: “This cantaloupe was picked by immigrants in California” and “You gave Steve King a vote. Give us a vote for citizenship.” The cantaloupes served as a reminder of Rep. King’s recent comments that most DREAMers were not college graduates but were instead drug smugglers with “calves the size of cantaloupes.”

-The Battle Over Citizenship in the House

While many immigration reform advocates had hoped for movement on immigration reform before the August recess, the House will begin its August recess next week without taking any action to move forward with immigration reform.

While getting a comprehensive immigration reform signed into law before the end of the year will be challenging, it is far from impossible. At this point, no one knows what will happen in the House on immigration, though there are several possible paths forward. Many House members have long held anti-amnesty stances. However, many of them have been expressing more interest in working on immigration reform, recognizing the potential political impact the issue could have on their party.

One clear message from House leadership has been that they do not want to vote on the Senate immigration bill. The House has its own bipartisan “Gang” that has been working on a comprehensive immigration reform bill, which has yet to be filed. The bill could also be broken down into smaller pieces, as many Members of the House have indicated a preference to pass “piecemeal” bills that address just one issue at a time, rather than one larger bill that comprehensively addresses immigration reform.

Another possibility for movement forward in the House would be for the House to pass a few piecemeal bills that only address pieces of immigration reform. Five piecemeal immigration bills have been passed out of their respective committees. One of them is Rep. Goodlatte’s Agricultural Guestworker Act, HR 1773, an unworkably harsh temporary worker program that strips away almost all worker protections and offers no path to citizenship for the current hard-working farmworkers. Goodlatte’s Bracero-redux program stands in sharp contrast to the positive agricultural stakeholder agreement that includes both an earned legalization program for the current workforce and a carefully negotiated agricultural guestworker program. Talking points on these proposals are available here.

None of the existing immigration reform bills contain a path to citizenship. House Republicans are also rumored to be working on several other pieces of immigration legislation, including a new guestworker program for lesser-skilled non-agricultural workers and the KIDS Act, a bill regarding undocumented youth who were brought to the U.S. as children, and possibly a bill to provide some kind of legal status to the undocumented. Votes on any one of these or any combination of these bills are a possibility in the fall. Any legislation passed in the House will likely need support from both parties since the anti-immigrant hardliners are likely to oppose any immigration bill that could bring the House to conference with the Senate.

If the House passes anything, it is likely to be a different bill than the Senate immigration reform bill, S. 744. Thus, the next step for the bills would be a conference committee that includes both Members of the House and Senate. Once there is an agreement on a final bill in the conference committee, both houses of Congress would have to approve the final bill before it is sent to the President for his signature.

Next week, Congress begins its August recess and Representatives return to their home districts for five weeks. While anti-immigration individuals represent a minority of Americans, they have been very loud in previous immigration reform efforts. Pro-reform groups are looking forward to the August recess as an opportunity to show the broad support for humane and sensible immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship by meeting with Members, and attending rallies and town hall meetings. This will be a time for many Members of Congress to decide where they stand on immigration reform.

We urge you to participate in local events and to weigh in with your Members of Congress to let them know that you support fair and rational immigration reform that includes a broad, inclusive and achievable path to citizenship for the 11 million, including farmworkers and their families. Please also share with them your support for the positive agricultural stakeholder agreement reached between agricultural employers and the UFW and express your opposition to Rep. Goodlatte’s harsh and unworkable Agricultural Guestworker Act, HR 1773.
 

ACTION ALERT: Urge Your Senators to Oppose All Chambliss Amendments

Sen. Chambliss has filed a slew of amendments designed to make the already difficult lives of farmworkers even more difficult. These amendments would reopen the tough and delicate agricultural immigration compromise reached between agricultural employers from around the country and farmworkers led by the United Farm Workers. The compromise involved tough negotiations over many months with Senators Rubio, Hatch, Feinstein and Bennet. Farmworkers already made major concessions to reach an agreement and should not be asked to make more.

The amendments would undermine the ability of farmworkers to earn legal immigration status, a core piece of the compromise.

The amendments would also undercut protections for all US farmworkers, including the newly legalized blue card workers, and for guestworkers in the H-2A program and the future guestworker program.

Please call or email your Senators to ask them to OPPOSE all Chambliss amendments related to the agricultural provisions of S.744 because they would:
1) Undermine the ability of farmworkers to earn legal immigration status by making it harder for farmworkers to legalize through unrealistic and punitive work requirements, high fines, and barriers to meeting the future work requirements.
2) Make changes to the future agricultural visa programs that would harm farmworkers, including by lowering mandated wage rates for certain workers, undermining the cap on the guestworker program, and limiting worker access to the courts and to justice.

You can call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your Senators or find Senators’ direct lines at www.senate.gov

Immigration Reform Update 6/24/13- Vote On Leahy 1183 Amendment Happening Today

Today at 5:30 PM, the Senate will vote on a critically important amendment to the Senate comprehensive immigration bill. The amendment, Leahy 1183, includes the agreement negotiated by Senators Corker (R-TN) and Hoeven (D-ND) and other Senators, and is essentially the new Senate immigration bill. The vote is a cloture vote ( a vote to end debate on the underlying amendment) so it will need at least 60 votes. If cloture vote tonight succeeds then there are further procedural votes that need to happen and it looks like the final vote on the bill would likely take place this week. A strong vote for cloture today is important to demonstrate support for the Senate immigration bill and to build the momentum for a strong bipartisan vote, which will send an important signal to the House about the need for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a roadmap to citizenship.

The amendment being voted on today includes the increased border security provisions, the so-called “border surge,” which were negotiated by Senators Corker (R-TN) and Hoeven (R-ND). The provisions contain an additional 20,000 border patrol agents, $3.2 billion in high-tech surveillance equipment, and a requirement to complete 700 miles of fencing along the border. The amendment does not make any changes to the agricultural provisions. We are still reviewing the text for other changes that would affect farmworkers.

You can watch the debate on the Senate website. 

Farmworker Justice Immigration Update June 20, 2013

House Judiciary Committee Passes New Agricultural Guestworker Program: Self-deportation for the Undocumented, Exploitation for U.S. Workers and Guestworkers

On June 19th, the House Judiciary Committee passed Chairman Robert Goodlatte's anti-worker, anti-immigrant Agricultural Guestworker Act, HR 1773, by a vote of 20-16 along party lines. Representatives King (R-IO), Marino (R-PA), Gohmert (R-TX) and Richmond (D-LA) did not vote on the bill’s final passage.

The bill would create a massive new agricultural guestworker program without an opportunity for undocumented farmworkers to earn immigration status or citizenship. Current undocumented farmworkers and their families are expected to self-deport. Farmworkers would be allowed to return as guestworkers if an employer sponsors them for a temporary work visa. They would not be allowed to bring their family members.

Respect for labor and concern for exploitation of foreign workers not in evidence in this bill

The new H-2C program would not contain most of the longstanding wage and labor protections in the current H-2A guestworker program. If the bill becomes law, U.S. farmworkers – citizens and permanent-resident immigrants -- would be displaced and wages and working conditions for all farmworkers would deteriorate. Employers would not have to provide or pay for housing or transportation and 10% of farmworkers wages would be deducted from their salary, which they could receive from the consulate when they return to their home country. Future guestworkers in the bill are denied access to the justice system to remedy the few rights left to them, such as the right to the minimum or (newly-defined and lower) prevailing wage.

The number of potential guestworkers could be as high as 1.5 million as there would be a cap of 500,000 H-2C visas per year but the estimated 1.1 million undocumented farmworkers would be exempt from the cap.

A committee markup that provided no relief for farmworkers

The Judiciary Committee’s “markup” of the Goodlatte bill included speeches and debates over numerous proposed amendments to alter the bill. After Rep. Goodlatte (R-VA) spoke in favor of the bill, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Cal.) and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) decried the bill’s cruel and unworkable plan for farmworkers to self-deport and come back as guestworkers. They urged the committee’s support of the Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill, S.744, which contains a compromise on agricultural workers supported by farmworker groups and growers’ associations throughout the country. Rep. Gutierrez likened the bill’s program to slavery and indentured servitude. Both members submitted amendments that would offer undocumented farmworkers a path to citizenship. Republicans objected that these amendments were “out of order” because they are not “germane” to the bill, which only addresses temporary nonimmigrant visas, and no vote was held on them.

Reps. Lofgren, Nadler (D-NY) and Garcia (D-FL) spoke out against an amendment offered by Rep. Chaffetz (R-UT) regarding the bill’s requirement of withholding 10% of agricultural guestworkers' wages from their paychecks. The amendment says that when the workers don't obtain their withheld wages from a US consulate in their home country, the US Government will use the money to enforce immigration law. Garcia noted, “Living conditions are abject poverty in many cases… and we think punishing them will somehow make us a better nation?” But the amendment was adopted by majority vote of the Committee. Rep. Chu later submitted an amendment to strike the 10% wage deduction from the bill but it was rejected by a party-line vote.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) spoke eloquently against provisions in the bill that provide for the denial of temporary foreign workers' access to the courts via forced arbitration. Completely ignoring the imbalance of power between growers and farmworkers, Rep. Goodlatte responded that since growers sign agreements containing arbitration clauses with other businesses, it is appropriate that guestworkers sign such agreements. He also stated that any worker who doesn’t like arbitration of labor violations doesn’t have to work for employers who offer arbitration clauses in their contracts. As if guestworkers have the power to choose their employers. Rep. Johnson's amendment was rejected.

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) was the rare Republican who showed any significant concern for the conditions of farmworkers. He moved to strike language in the arbitration provision that provides that workers and employers would split the cost of the arbitration. Rep. Bachus agreed with Rep. Johnson that it would be unjust to allow employers to shift all or most costs of arbitration to workers, and said that a worker who is cheated out of $200 would never even file for arbitration, which could cost $700 or more. Rep. Bachus agreed to work with Rep. Lofgren on a solution to the cost issue and withdrew his amendment.

Rep. Judy Chu (D.-Cal.) submitted an amendment that would grant farmworkers equal labor rights with other workers. She said that the negative effects of Goodlatte’s bill on farmworkers' conditions should be ameliorated by extending to farmworkers overtime pay, organizing rights, unemployment compensation and other labor protections that they are discriminatorily denied. Rep. Chu spoke about the history of official discrimination against farmworkers. Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI) added, “There’s no work that’s less hard, that pays less, that has fewer protections against employer abuse… I feel embarrassment that we’re here arguing in support of continuing these kind of wage abuses.” Chu’s amendment was rejected as “not germane.”

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D.-Cal.) offered an amendment to allow Legal Services Corporation-funded legal services programs to represent H-2C agricultural guestworkers to protect their rights (as they are now under the current H-2A program). Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) opposed the amendment, arguing that legal services attorneys use taxpayer money to harass H-2A workers and farmers. Rep. Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR), expressing incredulity at the denial of access to the justice system in the bill, defended the need for legal services for the poor. Jackson Lee’s amendment was defeated.

For some members, turning undocumented farmworkers into guestworkers and separating them from their families isn’t punishment enough. Rep. Steve King of Iowa offered an amendment to strike the provisions in the bill that would allow employers to bring in as guestworkers those farmworkers who had recently been inside the U.S. in undocumented status. In addition to King, Rep. Franks (R-AZ), Farenthold (R-TX), Collins (R-GA), DeSantis (R-FL) and Smith (R-MO) voted in favor of the amendment, which failed. Rep. King, who also helped organize a Tea Party rally against the Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill yesterday, said that he could not support the bill’s final passage with such “amnesty” provisions. Rep. King also offered an amendment that would increase guestworkers’ wage deductions from 10% to 20%, but withdrew it after Rep. Goodlatte expressed his opposition.

On a positive note, Rep. Lofgren submitted for the record a Dear Colleague letter by Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) who represents the largest agricultural district in the country, which expressed opposition to Goodlatte’s bill and support for the compromise agricultural provisions in the Senate immigration bill, S.744.

Whether or not Goodlatte’s bill will be brought to the floor for a vote will be decided by Republican leadership. Farmworker Justice will continue to work with the United Farm workers and many others to oppose this bill and support the agreement regarding agricultural workers in the Senate immigration reform bill, S.744.

An analysis of HR1773 and talking points on the bill’s treatment of undocumented farmworkers are available here. We encourage you to read and share our latest report, “Who Works the Fields? The Stories of Americans Who Feed Us,” and our earlier report about guestworker program, “No Way to Treat a Guest.” Both are available here.

Farmworker Justice Immigration Update: April 15, 2016

DAPA & the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in US v. Texas on Monday at 10:00am. The case will determine whether or not the Deferred Action for the Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program (DAPA) and the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (expanded DACA) will move forward.

Farmworker Justice Immigration Update

President Obama held meetings last week with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) on Thursday and immigration advocates on Friday to discuss the record number of people that the Obama Administration has deported. By the end of the month, it is estimated that the Obama Administration will have deported 2 million immigrants, more than any other administration. The President has been the target of recent protests due to his record number of deportations. The media widely reported that the President of the National Council of La Raza, Janet Murguia, called the President the “Deporter-in-Chief.” The CHC meeting came in advance of its planned vote on a resolution calling on the Obama Administration to decrease the number of deportations.

The President reportedly told both groups that he has asked Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to review the Administration’s deportation policies to find “more humane ways to enforce the law.” CHC Members Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and CHC Chairman Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) attended Thursday’s meeting after which the CHC decided to postpone the vote on the resolution criticizing the President. The Members plan to meet with Johnson to discuss deportation policy.

In the meeting with advocates, the President reportedly expressed concern for the families being separated by deportations, but urged the advocates to keep pressure on the House to pass immigration reform this year. Several of the groups in the meeting have said that they will work with Secretary Johnson. Others have made clear that they will continue to press the Administration to stop the deportations and provide some administrative relief for undocumented immigrants.

The LA Times reported that policy changes currently under consideration by DHS could stop the deportations of individuals with no criminal convictions other than those related to immigration violations. This would mark a significant change in the agency’s policies. ICE claims that 96% of the individuals it deported last year fall into its deportation priorities; however, many of those individuals fall into the priorities only for having committed certain immigration violations, such as unlawful reentry or failing to appear at an immigration hearing. Often, the “criminals” being deported have been convicted of illegally reentering the country after a prior deportation. Many of these individuals have lived and worked in the U.S. for lengthy periods of time and are desperate to be reunited with their families. The Pew Research Center released a report this week on “The Rise of Federal Immigration Crimes: Unlawful Reentry Drives Growth,” which states that the number of federal criminal convictions for reentry has increased from 690 cases in 1992 to 19,463 in 2012, accounting for 48% of the growth in the number of offenders sentenced in federal courts. The average sentence for unlawful reentry convictions is 2 years.

Cesar Chavez Film Events Highlight Immigration Reform
The director of the new Cesar Chavez film, Diego Luna, and actresses America Ferrera and Rosario Dawson spoke about the urgent need for immigration reform at a premiere of the film at the Newseum in Washington, DC. The film also had a special screening at the White House where President Obama spoke about the struggle for immigration reform. “Cesar Chavez: History is Made One Step at a Time” will open in theaters March 28th.

H-2A Class-Action Lawsuit Filed in Washington
Two farm workers from the lower Yakima Valley, WA, have filed a class-action lawsuit against a large grape and vegetable grower, Mercer Canyons, alleging violations of the H-2A temporary agricultural guestworker program. The H-2A program requires employers to advertise for and hire qualified, willing and available US workers and includes requirements for recruiting US workers, such as contacting past employees to offer them the positions. Mercer Canyons applied for 44 H-2A workers in for the 2013 growing season. One named-plaintiff, Bacilio Ruiz Torres had been working for Mercer Canyons since February 2012 and was never offered the $12 per hour jobs. He made $9.88 per hour in 2013. The other named-plaintiff Jose Amador went to the Mercer Canyons office along with two family members to inquire about the jobs and was told that there were none. The lawsuit alleges that 100 other individuals were in similar positions. The farmworkers are represented by Columbia Legal Services and Schroeter, Goldmark and Bender.

Over the last year, use of the H-2A program has increased 49% in Washington and continues to grow. Despite the H-2A programs’ protections, displacement of US workers is not uncommon. Once employers invest in the H-2A program, they often prefer guestworkers over US workers because they are more vulnerable and are less likely to challenge illegal conduct. Plus, growers are able to handpick their H-2A workers -virtually all young men- because anti-discrimination laws are not enforced abroad. Moreover, H-2A workers typically arrive indebted and desperate to work to repay their debt, they are tied to an employer for an entire season, and must leave the country when the job ends, factors which make workers extremely vulnerable to abuse.

New Agribusiness Report Correctly Calls for Immigration Reform But Contains Flawed Analysis
The American Coalition for Immigration Reform and the Partnership for a New American Economy, a bipartisan pro-immigration reform group of mayors and business leaders released a report on Tuesday, “No Longer Home Grown: How Labor Shortages are Increasing America’s Reliance on Imported Fresh Produce and Slowing U.S. Economic Growth.” While Farmworker Justice strongly agrees that there is an urgent need for immigration reform in agriculture and that immigration reform will be good for the U.S. economy, we disagree with some of the points in the report. Unfortunately, while the report does recommend immigration reform and specifically mentions the stakeholder agreement’s new guestworker program, it does not reference the path to legalization for current undocumented farmworkers. The stakeholder agreement’s path to permanent legal status and the opportunity to earn citizenship would help stabilize the current farm labor force, benefitting employers, farmworkers, and consumers. For farmworkers, this would mean a greater ability to challenge unfair or illegal employment practices and to move freely in the agricultural labor market and their communities without fear of immigration enforcement. We all want a prosperous agricultural sector in this country and reasonable policy decisions on immigration policy can help us achieve that goal. Farmworker Justice’s full statement on the report is available here.

Farmworker Justice Legislative Action Alert June 17, 2013

Please call the Members of Congress on the House Judiciary Committee, especially if they represent your district. The list is below. Tell them to OPPOSE the Goodlatte “Agricultural Guestworker Act,” H.R. 1773. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a “mark up” to debate, amend and probably vote on H.R. 1773. Rep. Goodlatte (R.-Va.) chairs the Judiciary Committee; his bill’s cosponsors include Rep. Gowdy (R-SC) chair of the immigration subcommittee.

This bill would establish a new H-2C agricultural guestworker program that would lower farmworkers’ wages, eliminate labor protections that have existed for decades under the H-2A and Bracero programs, minimize government oversight, allow displacement of US farmworkers and exploitation of vulnerable guestworkers, and deprive farmworkers of meaningful access to the justice system.

The bill would not allow undocumented farmworkers in the United States, or their family members, to earn green cards or the opportunity for citizenship. It does not fix our broken immigration system; it would make it far worse.

This anti-worker, anti-immigrant bill is inconsistent with the approach taken by the Senate “Gang of Eight” in the tough but acceptable labor-management compromise on agricultural workers in the bipartisan immigration proposal, S.744. Read the Farmworker Justice legislative analysis of the Goodlatte Agricultural Guestworker Act at our website page on Immigration Reform and Farmworkers.

Committee Members are listed below. You may reach them by calling the US Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Republicans

Goodlatte (R) Chairman, Virginia, 6th

Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R) Wisconsin, 5th

Coble (R) North Carolina, 6th

Lamar Smith (R) Texas, 21st

Chabot (R) Ohio, 1st

Bachus (R) Alabama, 6th

Issa (R) California, 49th

Forbes (R) Virginia, 4th

King (R) Iowa, 4th

Franks (R) Arizona, 8th

Gohmert (R) Texas, 1st

Jordan (R) Ohio, 4th

Poe (R) Texas, 2nd

Chaffetz (R) Utah, 3rd

Marino (R) Pennsylvania, 10th

Gowdy (R) South Carolina, 4th

Amodei (R) Nevada, 2nd

Labrador (R) Idaho, 1st

Farenthold (R) Texas, 27th

Holding (R) North Carolina, 13th

Collins (R) Georgia, 9th

DeSantis (R) Florida, 6th

Democrats

Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member, (D) Michigan, 13th

Nadler (D) New York, 10th

Scott (D) Virginia, 3rd

Watt (D) North Carolina, 12th

Lofgren (D) California, 19th

Jackson Lee (D) Texas, 18th

Cohen (D) Tennessee, 9th

Johnson (D) Georgia, 4th

Pierluisi (D) Puerto Rico, (At-large)

Chu (D) California, 27th

Deutch (D) Florida, 21st

Gutierrez (D) Illinois, 4th

Bass (D) California, 37th

Richmond (D) Louisiana, 2nd

DelBene (D) Washington, 1st

Garcia (D) Florida, 26th

Jeffries (D) New York, 8th

Farmworker Justice Immigration Reform Update 6/11/13

Senate Update

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, S.744, has moved to the Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Reid plans to offer robust opportunity for debate on the bill and proposed amendments. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy (D-VT), who supports the bill, will manage the floor for the Democrats, but will have less control over the debate than he had in the committee. He encouraged Senators to file amendments early to maintain a transparent process. Senate rules allow the Senators to offer amendments on any part of the bill at any time. We expect that hundreds of amendments will be filed. Republican floor time will be divided between proponents and opponents of the bill. Senator Reid expects that debate on S.744 will continue for three weeks with a final vote before the July 4 recess.

Senator Reid filed motions to initiate debate S.744 last Thursday. The vote on the motion for cloture (to end debate) on the motion to proceed will be at 2:15 today (Tuesday). On Friday, Senators began making opening statements on the comprehensive immigration reform bill. Of note, Senator Boxer (D-CA) in her opening remarks discussed the need to protect the careful compromise reflected in the agricultural worker provisions. Senator Lee (R.-UT) repeatedly called the bill, “an immigration version of Obamacare.”

House Update

Last week, Rep. Labrador made news when he withdrew from the House “gang of eight” working on a comprehensive immigration reform bill due to irreconcilable differences over access to health care benefits. The gang reportedly still plans to file it in June. However, there is no guarantee that the House Judiciary Committee will take up the bill, as Judiciary Committee Chair Goodlatte (R-VA) prefers a piecemeal approach to immigration reform. Speaker Boehner has promised that immigration reform bills will go through full House process (meaning they will have to go through the committee process first), so the House gang of (now) seven’s bill may never receive a vote.

However, the House does not need to pass a comprehensive bill in order for an immigration reform bill to go to a House-Senate conference committee. The House could pass one or several piecemeal bills, which would then go to a conference committee with S.744 (assuming it passes the Senate), which would be charged with creating one final bill that would return to both houses for a final vote. If each body approves the conference committee’s compromise bill, then it would be delivered to the President’s desk for his veto or signature.

Farmworker Justice Immigration Update 5/22/2013

On May 21st, the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) concluded its mark-up of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. It passed the bill out of committee by a bipartisan vote of 13-5, with the support of all Democratic Senators and three Republican Senators (Senators Hatch, Flake and Graham). The Committee action marks an important step toward enactment of comprehensive immigration reform. The next step is a debate and vote on the Senate floor, which is expected to take place in June. Farmworker Justice’s statement on the passage of the S. 744 out of the SJC is here.

The mark-up in the SJC included two amendments directly impacting the blue card program, which allows undocumented farmworkers and their immediate family members to earn immigration status and permanent residency.

Read full update on our blog: 

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