Farmworker Immigration Bill Passes U.S. House With Support From Idaho Rep. Simpson
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act Thursday, which would provide a path to legal status for farmworkers through agricultural work. Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson is a co-sponsor of the bipartisan legislation.
The bill has the support of several Idaho agricultural groups, including the Idaho Potato Commission, the Idaho Cattle Association and the Idaho Dairymen’s Association.
“It’s about providing a stable, legal workforce for the people who put food on our tables,” Simpson said on the House floor.
The dairy industry would benefit, in particular, from the legislation, which would make a certain number of year-round visas available for dairy workers. Dairy workers are not currently eligible for temporary, seasonal visas because the industry is year-round.
Simpson was one of 30 Republicans to vote in favor of the bill. Several Republican legislators argued it would provide “amnesty” to undocumented people, but Simpson disagreed, saying it creates a “merit-based” agricultural immigration system.
The legislation would make it easier for producers to hire workers through the H-2A temporary agricultural visa program. It would also let these workers apply for green cards after 10 years of working in the U.S.
President Joe Biden expressed support for the legislation on Thursday.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act was passed by the U.S. House in 2019, but didn’t make it to the Senate before the pandemic hit. Idaho Rep. Russ Fulcher voted in favor of the legislation then, but voted against it this year.
The House passed another immigration reform bill Thursday — the American Dream and Promise Act -—which would provide a path to citizenship for “DREAMers.” Both Reps. Simpson and Fulcher voted against this bill.
Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen
Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio