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Senate Democrats, Republicans Reach Agreement on Immigration

A bipartisan coalition of Senate Democrats and Republicans has reached agreement on immigration reform. The AgJOBS bill – part of the overall immigration reform debate – was part of the agreement. The goal of AgJOBS is to help agricultural producers find a legal workforce.

If the agreement passes the Senate, it will go to the House of Representatives for more debate. If it passes the House, President George W. Bush has indicated he will sign the bill into law.

“Convictions run deep on the matter of immigration, but with this bipartisan agreement I am confident leaders in Washington can have a serious, civil and conclusive debate so I can sign comprehensive reform into law this year. I urge all members to support this bipartisan immigration reform proposal,” Bush said.

The bill will provide a way for laborers to become legal citizens, but is not an amnesty program. If it passes, illegal workers will be able to apply for a “Z” visa, which puts them on the track to gaining citizenship after they pay a $5,000 fine. Heads of households would have to return to their home countries to complete the requirements. The process would likely take eight years or longer, and won’t begin until border security upgrades and a worker identification program are enacted, according to the Associated Press.

Growers in many parts of the country already are seeing worker shortages this season, and industry groups have been working to make their voices heard. More than 160 agricultural leaders flew in to Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress to include AgJOBS in comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

“While I still need to see the final language, today’s agreement is an important start in the process of moving this bill forward,” said Sen. Ken Salazar, a Democrat from Colorado. “This is a compromise that we can take to the floor process where I look forward to working with my colleagues to further improve it.”

As the specifics of the agreement become available, Spudman will keep you posted. Check the Web site, http://www.spudman.com for u,p-to-date information.

Originally posted Friday, May. 18, 2007

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