Estimating the size of the unauthorized immigrant population in the United States is difficult. According to the Pew Research Center, there were 10.5 million unauthorized immigrants in the country as of the year 2017. It is the goal of many unauthorized immigrants to become legal citizens. While this can be a difficult process, many lawmakers are working hard to assist these immigrants in achieving what they want. For example, on Wednesday, December 11, the House passed a bipartisan bill that could give legal status and pave the way to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants who work in agriculture. 

What is the Legislation?

After months of discussion regarding the matter, a rare bipartisan agreement resulted in the creation of this legislation to assist unauthorized agriculture workers. The bill passed in the House with a vote of 260-165. If put into law, the bill could legalize roughly 325,000 immigrants that currently work in the agriculture field and do not have legal status. 

Under the bill, those who have worked in agriculture for at least 180 days over the past two years can apply for “Certified Agricultural Worker” status. This status can be renewed in six-month or five-year increments as long as the individual works for at least 100 days a year. The bill also offers a path to a green card for farmworkers. This requires four years of experience or more in the industry as well as a $1000 fine. This is possible through a streamlined application process for the H-2A temporary visa program for seasonal agricultural workers. It allows up to 40,000 green cards to be granted every year through either the sponsorship of an employer or if the worker maintains H-2A status for 10 years. 

In addition to this, the bill creates a new program capped at 20,000 visas for year-round agricultural industries that were previously unable to participate in the H-2A program. It also tightens up enforcement, which requires farm employers to participate in the federal E-Verify program. This freezes the minimum wage that is set by the government for one year and cap increases at 3.25 percent for the next nine years. 

Representative Jimmy Panetta, who helped lead the negotiations regarding the bill, spoke about the bipartisan agreement on Wednesday. He said, “I am thankful that the House advanced this effort to protect our existing farmworkers and promote an enduring workforce for agriculture. I look forward to working with our colleagues in the Senate to get this bill passed into law.”

The bill still has a fight ahead, as it must go to the Senate next. There, it must be voted on again in order to be passed into law. 

Contact our Firm

The Law Offices of Cheryl R. David practices immigration law throughout NYC. Immigration is a sensitive issue, which is why you should consider a compassionate, experienced, and aggressive immigration attorney who will guide you every step of the way. If you have questions about your particular matters regarding immigration please do not hesitate to contact our office to discuss your circumstances and options.