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Immigration reform no closer to reality

The U.S. House of Representatives expect to pass the Farm Modernization Workforce Act as soon as Thursday, March 18.

The produce industry has supported the legislation as a first step in securing a legal workforce.

While the bill also passed the House in the last Congress, it looks unlikely to pass the Senate, which didn’t even take it up last Congress.

The Democrats now control the Senate, unlike last Congress, but most bills still need 60 votes to pass, which is something Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for United Fresh Produce Association BB #:145458, calls “an uphill battle.”

“I don’t see all 50 Democrats or 10 Republicans go for it,” he said in a virtual meeting with members March 16.

The legislation has some bipartisan support in the House, which he said will help in the Senate.

But it probably won’t be enough.

United Fresh is asking produce industry members to sign a letter to House leaders, showing support for the bill.

Angela Bezon Tiwari, United Fresh Director, Grassroots & Political Action, said there are more than 400 signers with a goal of 500 before the vote. If it passes the House as expected, she said a similar letter will be crafted for Senate leadership.

The Biden administration made immigration reform a top priority of his presidency, and Congressional Democrats have rallied support for a broader bill, but so far, they haven’t gotten enough support from their party.

Instead, Democrats have advanced the farmworker bill and one to provide a path to citizenship for young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, known as Dreamers.

Both bills, however, appear headed to the same defeat that caught previous attempts. The path to citizenship provision will be labeled “amnesty” by Republicans, which is abhorred by their voters, and thus, few Republicans will support it.

Republicans who have supported such legislation in the past have often lost primaries in the next election.

John Hollay, Senior Director, Government Relations for United Fresh, said he’s optimistic that this time it could be different, as much progress has been made on the farmworker bill, even referring to it as his “Super Bowl.”

As a Kansas City Chiefs fan, it does seem like a Super Bowl analogy to me. One where my team loses 31-9 to a guy who always wins.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services