Leahy, Sanders And Welch Join In Introducing 'Blue Card' Bill To Reform Broken Immigration Policies That Beset Dairy Farms And Farmworkers

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) have joined in introducing legislation to shield farmworkers from deportation and to open for them a path toward earned legal status and eventual citizenship.

The bill was introduced Wednesday in both the Senate and the House.  Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, is the chief Senate sponsor, and Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) is the chief House sponsor.  Leahy is a leading member and former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over immigration laws.  Leahy also is a leading member and former chairman of the Agriculture Committee.  Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) are also cosponsors.

Under the Agricultural Worker Program Act, farmworkers who have worked in agriculture for at least 100 days in the past two years may earn “blue card” status that allows them to continue to legally work in the Unites States. Farmworkers who maintain blue card status for the next three years or five years — depending on hours worked in agriculture — would be eligible to adjust to lawful permanent residence (Green Card).  Leahy led a bipartisan effort that saw similar provisions passed by the full Senate in 2013.

Leahy said:  “Across our country, including the many dairy farms of Vermont, foreign workers support agriculture and help put food on our tables.  It is past time we show our support for them and our understanding of the challenges that farmers and workers face in doing this hard work.  Our bill would allow these workers to come out of the shadows and contribute to their farms and communities without fear of arrest.  The current system has long been broken, and it needs to be fixed.  I am proud to support this solution and to continue the work of achieving these reforms.”

Sanders said:  “It is no secret that undocumented farmworkers contribute enormously to Vermont’s agricultural economy and rural communities.  However, our dysfunctional immigration system forces them to live in the shadows without any of the legal rights and protections most other workers have.  Meanwhile, Trump’s shameful immigration policies have targeted farmworkers for deportation, often tearing apart families and communities in the process.  While we clearly need comprehensive immigration reform, this bill is a very good step in terms of giving hardworking people who put food on our tables the opportunity to earn legal status, and ensuring Vermont farms have the stable workforce they need to survive.” 

Welch said:  “In Vermont and across the country, foreign-born agricultural workers help keep our dairy farms and rural economy afloat. This commonsense legislation would allow them to continue their hard work without constant threat of arrest. It would also reduce the uncertainty faced by our dairy farmers, who are already confronting many challenges including high energy costs, labor shortages, and unstable milk prices.”

The Agricultural Worker Protection Act is also supported by the United Farm Workers, the UFW Foundation and Farmworker Justice.

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