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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions - S. 1645

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS

By Mr. CRAIG (for himself, Mr. KENNEDY, Mr. SMITH, Mr. GRAHAM of Florida, Mr. COCHRAN, Mr. SCHUMER, Mr. GREGG, Mr. LIEBERMAN, Mr. MCCAIN, Mr. KERRY, Mr. HAGEL, Ms. CANTWELL, Mr. VOINOVICH, Mr. WYDEN, Mr. COLEMAN, Mrs. CLINTON, Mr. DEWINE, Mrs. BOXER, and Mrs. MURRAY):

S. 1645. A bill to provide for the adjustment of status of certain foreign agricultural workers, to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to reform the H-2A worker program under that Act, to provide a stable, legal agricultural workforce, to extend basic legal protections and better working conditions to more workers, and for other purposes; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, it is a privilege to join my colleagues in introducing the Agricultural Jobs, Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act.

The treatment of immigrant farm workers, dating back to the Bracero program, represents a shameful chapter in our history.
The decades of exploitation these workers have endured continues to this day. Large numbers of men and women employed in agriculture today are indispensable workers who also happen to be undocumented. As a result, they are easily exploited by unscrupulous employers, who get away with paying them very low wages and forcing them to work in dangerous conditions. Inevitably, that means lower wages for legal farm workers.

We have been struggling for decades to find a solution to this emotional heart-wrenching problem. This legislation—a historic and far-reaching agreement between the United Farm Workers of America and the representatives of agricultural industries—provides a common sense solution to this long-standing problem. It will provide farm workers and their families with dignity and justice and give agricultural industries with a legal workforce.

We need an agriculture policy grounded in reality, a policy that recognizes their contributions and respects and rewards their work. This legislation will improve the wages and working conditions of all farm workers, and provide a way for foreign-born workers to become permanent residents.

Under this bill, 500,000 farm workers currently working the United States will be able to legalize their status. These changes will benefit both workers and growers. The legislation will improve the wages and working conditions of all farm workers, and provide a way for foreign-born workers to become permanent residents.

Agriculture is a unique industry. Growers must have an immediate and reliable workforce at harvest time. Everyone is harmed when crops rot in the field because the workers are not available. With these changes, growers will have greater access to dependable, hard-working employees, and a workforce that is no longer subject to sudden immigration raids.

I urge my colleagues to support this needed legislation. These reforms are long overdue, to improve the lives and working conditions of all farm workers, and it is long past time for Congress to act.

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