WASHINGTON — Lawmakers have struck a deal that would give legal status to hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrant farmworkers in exchange for stronger employee verification in the agricultural sector, a bipartisan group will announce Wednesday.
The deal could reach the House floor as early as the end of November.
The legislation is the product of months of negotiations by lawmakers from both parties and farm and labor groups. It would offer a path to legal status, either five-year visas or citizenship, for longtime U.S. agricultural workers with clean records. It would also overhaul the farm visa system to make it easier for employers to file applications, would limit mandatory wage increases, and would provide year-round visas for industries like dairy farms that are not seasonal.
The bill also incorporates legislation by Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona (Riverside County), beefing up the system for verifying a worker’s immigration status in the U.S. and making it mandatory for the agricultural industry.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, who chairs the immigration subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, led negotiations on the deal with Republican Reps. Doug LaMalfa of Richvale (Butte County) and Dan Newhouse of Washington state.
“The men and women who work America’s farms feed the nation. But, farmworkers across the country are living and working with uncertainty and fear, contributing to the destabilization of farms across the nation,” Lofgren said in a statement. “Our bill offers stability for American farms.”
If it passes the House, the bill still faces an uncertain future in the Senate. It’s also unclear whether President Trump will back it.
The White House has been briefed on the bill, according to sources close to the negotiations. Trump’s media office did not respond to a question about whether he would support it.
LaMalfa emphasized the bill’s narrow scope, noting that it applies only to the agriculture sector, and said he believes it would be a win for Trump. He said he hopes it can be kept “in its own protective little bubble,” shielded from the fight between Republicans and Democrats on broader immigration policy.
By Tal Kopan for SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
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