Checking in from Washington’s state on the coverage of the newly introduced immigration reform bill, I’m curious to see how the legislation is viewed by the Drudge Report, industry leaders and farm worker advocates.
So far, thumbs up from the industry and farm worker advocates and one thumbs down from Drudge.
Drudge can be expected to convey the initial sense of public awareness/outrage about the immigration reform legislation, while industry leaders and farm worker lobbyists will reveal enthusiasm for immigration reform/guest worker provisions.
Drudge’s headlines, as usual, emphasized the reactionary element of the political spectrum. The headlines tonight "Congressman: Immigration Bill 'Worse Than We Thought'...
In contrast, The Packer’s coverage by Coral Beach noted that “Produce groups join others to support immigration reform”
The political math for immigration is hard to figure, but one assumes there will be significant momentum for reform this year. One thing is certain: the more negative stories that Drudge links to on immigration, the tougher the slog it will be for Republicans to find the resolve to support comprehensive immigration reform.
What does the bill contain? Here is a selected summary of the ag-related provisions from the Senate summary:
The full text of the bill can be found here.
United Fresh summarizes the ag labor provisions this way:
Key Agricultural Labor Provisions in Immigration Reform Bill
Current undocumented farmworkers would be eligible to obtain legal status through a new Blue Card program if they choose to remain working in agriculture:
Ag workers who can document working in U.S. agriculture for a minimum of 100 workdays or 575 hours prior to December 31, 2012 can adjust to this new Blue Card status.
After a minimum of five years, workers who fulfill their Blue Card work requirements in U.S. agriculture will become eligible to apply for a Green Card, providing that they have no outstanding taxes, no convictions and pay a fine.
A new agricultural guest worker program will be established, with two work options:
An “At-Will” option will allow workers to enter the country to accept a specific job offer from an authorized agricultural employer, under a three-year visa. Employees will then be able to move within the country, working “at will” for any other authorized agricultural employer during that time. Employers must provide housing or a housing allowance to these workers.
A “Contract-Based” option will allow workers to enter the country to accept a specific contract for a specific amount of work from an authorized employer. This will also provide for a three-year visa, and require employers to provide housing or a housing allowance.
All guest workers will be paid an agreed-upon wage under the terms of this agreement.
There is a visa cap for the first five years of the program while current workers are participating in the Blue Card program. The Secretary of Agriculture has the authority to modify that cap if circumstances in agricultural labor require.
The new program will be administered by the Department of Agriculture.
While the initial visa cap level is only 112,333 for the non-immigrant agricultural workers, there are provisions for immediate adjustments in the cap. And the program is being administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is what the industry wanted to see.
And farm labor advocates seem to accept the hard-fought compromise as well.
As far Drudge and his readers, time will tell.