Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Immigration reform bill would create new blue-card program for experienced farm workers

The proposed immigration bill, formally filed today, includes a "blue card" program that would allow experienced farm and agriculture workers who are in the country illegally the opportunity to move closer to obtaining a green card and legal residency, reports Agri-Pulse, a Washington newsletter.

To be eligible, workers would need documentation of having worked at least 100 days in two years. They would also have to pay taxes, stay out of trouble and pay a $400 fee, Agri-Pulse reports: "Those work requirements include performing at least five years of agricultural employment for at least 100 work days per year, or performing at least three years of agricultural employment for at least 150 work days per year."

The current farmworker visa program, known as H-2A, "would sunset one year after the new visa program is enacted," and would provide three-year visas. Employers of workers would have to register with the Department of Agriculture. The bill calls for workers unemployed for more than 60 consecutive days to be deported. "The program would be capped at 112,333 visas per year for the first five years, and employers would be required to provide housing or housing allowances during employment." Agri-Pulse is subscription-only, but offers a free trial here.

The 844-page bill is divided into four sections: border security, immigrant visas, interior enforcement, and reforms to non-immigrant visas, or workplace programs, David Nakamura reports for The Washington Post. Opponents of the proposal hope to delay the bill long enough to kill it, which was a successful tactic in 2007 when new immigration was introduced. (Read more)

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