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Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act--Continued--

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. COLLINS. Madam President, I rise to speak on an issue of significant importance to the forest products industry in Maine. I am pleased to be joined here by my colleague from Maine, Senator King. We have both heard from a number of our constituents in Maine who are concerned about the ambiguity in the bill that is currently before the Senate, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, with regard to the definition of ``agriculture employment'' for the purposes of the proposed W agriculture visa program. I would like to turn to Senator King to elaborate on the concerns that we've heard from constituents in our State.

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Ms. COLLINS: I thank my colleagues for this clarification. This will maintain the status quo by allowing loggers, who currently enter the United States under the H-2A program, to enter the United States under the new W agricultural visa program. A reliable supply of labor, when American workers are not available, is critical for downstream industries such as paper mills in Maine.

I now wish to speak on an issue of significant importance to the forest products industry in Maine. The immigration bill before the Senate contains an ambiguity related to the definition of ``agricultural employment'' for purposes of the new W agriculture visa program. Currently, logging employment is included in the H-2A visa program, pursuant to a rule adopted by the Department of Labor in 2008. The new W agricultural visa program will replace the H-2A visa program. Therefore, I wanted to make sure the logging workers who are currently eligible for the H-2A visa will be eligible for the new W agricultural visa program. My constituents are not asking for a carve-out or special favor. They are simply asking that the status quo be maintained in the new program.

Consequently, my colleague, Senator King, and I engaged in a colloquy with the managers of the bill, Senators Leahy and Grassley, to clarify that the intent of the legislation is not to exclude logging employment, as defined in title 20 of the Code of Federal Regulations in section 655.103(c)(4), from the definition of ``agricultural employment'' for purposes of the new W agricultural visa program. I am grateful to my colleagues for making this clarification.

In addition, I received a letter from Secretary Vilsack of the U.S. Department of Agriculture on this issue.

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