The U.S. bishops have praised the passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019, which creates a new status for migrant agricultural workers and enacts changes to the temporary worker program. The bill passed the House of Representatives on Dec. 11, with bipartisan support. The bill is co-sponsored by 37 Democrats and 25 Republicans. The bill now moves to the Senate.
“The Farm Workforce Modernization Act was written in an effort to make a better system for both the farmer and the farmworkers and to create a more effective and humane agriculture industry,” said Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City in a statement released by the U.S. bishops’ conference.
“The Catholic Church has long recognized the dignity of work of both citizen and immigrant farmworkers and growers alike and welcomes changes in the law to help ensure greater protection,” he added. Coakley is the chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
If passed, a status category of “certified agricultural worker” (CAW) will be created for certain workers. This would apply to anyone who worked in agriculture for at least 1,035 hours from November 12, 2017, through November 12, 2019, is eligible for deportation, and has continuously lived in the United States during that period.
The bill also would create a program that would provide assistance for rural rental housing and “off-farm labor housing and rental assistance for qualified tenants of such housing.” The Department of Agriculture would be able to provide new grants and loans for housing assistance for agricultural workers. CNA