Immigration reform bill would affect farmworkers in Monterey County

Peninsula Premier Admin

SALINAS — The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, a comprehensive immigration reform bill, has been introduced by Rep. Jimmy Panetta along with Rep. Linda Sanchez, CA-38, into the House of Representatives that would, among other things, provide a pathway to citizenship for deserving immigrants, including farmworkers.

Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, is an original co-sponsor of the legislation and a companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ.

The bill was introduced bicamerally as it is a top priority in the House and Senate and is an important aspect of President Joe Biden’s broad priorities for immigration changes.

Biden has said he might accept a more-piecemeal approach if separate major elements could be approved.

In a report from the Associated Press, the bill Democrats introduced Thursday would immediately provide green cards to farmworkers and immigrants with temporary protected status and young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children. For others living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, the plan establishes a five-year path to temporary legal status. If they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfill other basic requirements, then, after three years, they can pursue citizenship.

The plan also would raise the current per-country caps for family and employment-based immigrant visas. It would eliminate the penalty barring those immigrants who live in the U.S. without authorization and who then leave the country from returning for three to 10 years. It also would provide resources for more judges, support staff and technology to address the backlog in processing asylum seekers.

The plan includes $4 billion spread over four years to try to boost economic development and tackle corruption in Latin American countries, to lessen pressure for migration to the U.S.

The legislation is the end result of close work and collaboration with the Biden administration, civil and immigrant rights leaders, and members of Congress.

Panetta was invited to be an original co-sponsor of the legislation because of his previous work on immigration reform in his first two terms in Congress.

“Our immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed. Unfortunately, politics has outweighed proper policies for the people when it comes to immigration reform by the federal government,” said Panetta in a press release. “Fortunately, the Biden Administration is using the foundation that we laid in Congress with our previous legislation to take a step in the right direction with the U.S. Citizenship Act.”

According to the Monterey County Legislative Program adopted by the Board of Supervisors in January 2019, immigrants make up over 30% of the total population and at 21.7% Monterey County has the highest percentage of non-citizens of any California county.

“The County’s immigrant population, including undocumented immigrants, is a critical component of the local labor force, especially for the county’s two largest industries — agriculture and hospitality,” the document stated. “The contributions of immigrants to the economic, cultural, and social well-being of our community are a source of pride for the county, and the county recognizes the importance of maintaining an environment of trust and safety for immigrants who choose to make Monterey County their home.”

Panetta said that in addition to trying to put an end to the politics of dehumanizing immigrants and asylum seekers, this comprehensive immigration reform bill will provide an earned path to citizenship for deserving immigrants, including farmworkers, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and recipients of Temporary Protected Status, ensure an opportunity for their family members to stay here, and restore the integrity of our immigration system.

“I am proud to support the President’s bold piece of legislation, which builds upon the work we did in Congress with our Farm Workforce Modernization Act, the American Dream and Promise Act, and my Immigrant Witness and Victim Protection Act, which provides protections to cooperating victims and witnesses of crime, said Panetta. “The U.S. Citizenship Act will allow us to continue our work for the security of America, and our fight for an immigration system that reflects the values of our home on the Central Coast, our nation of immigrants, and a government charged with providing people the opportunity to fulfill their American Dream.”

Multiple paths exist for the legislation to progress through the House, including through a formal committee hearing and markup, through the reconciliation process or even using a piecemeal approach.

The reconciliation process allows for the expedited consideration of certain legislation. In the Senate, reconciliation bills are not subject to filibuster and the scope of amendments is limited.

Next, both chambers will consider the bill and bring it to a vote.

Contributed by local news sources

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