Agriculture Agrees on Immigration Package

The struggle to achieve immigration reform took a giant step forward late Friday, when an agreement was finally reached on the framework for agriculture’s portion of the comprehensive immigration bill. The Senate “Gang of Eight” is drafting the bill, which may be introduced as early as Tuesday.

“Society of American Florist (SAF) members who attended Congressional Action Days (CAD) and helped lobby for immigration reform can feel proud of their work,” says SAF’s Lin Schmale. “Keeping Congressional attention focused on floriculture’s needs will continue to be of critical importance. We are delighted that the negotiators have reached agreement, and commend them on achieving what is truly a great success!”

After weeks of often very intense negotiations, agreement was reached Friday between the Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC), of which SAF is a member, the United Farm Workers (UFW) and the key senators involved in the process, on the details of agriculture’s part of the Senate bill. The provisions of the agreement are essentially those developed by AWC and presented during CAD: a path to legal status for farmworkers currently living in the U.S. without proper documentation, and a new Agricultural Worker Visa program which would have two options: a “portable” visa allowing workers to move from employer to employer, and a contract-based visa program for workers and employers who prefer to enter into a contract.

“We are of course very grateful to Senators Dianne Feinstein, Marco Rubio, Orrin Hatch, and Michael Bennet for their strong leadership and commitment,” said Schmale, and “the leaders of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, including Craig Regelbrugge and Monte Lake, deserve all of our thanks for what we believe is an unprecedented achievement.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing originally scheduled for Wednesday of this week has been postponed until Friday morning, to give senators a chance to study details of the bill.

More details will be released shortly, but it remains critical for SAF members to make sure their legislators know how critical immigration reform is to agriculture’s viability. Go to www.safnow.org, click on the “Write to Congress” hot button for a pre-written letter which can be edited as you wish. Or you can email your own letter.

“The momentum has begun,” Schmale said. “Now it is up to us to keep it going!”
For more information, contact SAF’s Government Relations Staff at gr@safnow.org.

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