The Senate Monday voted to invoke cloture on an important border security amendment to the federal immigration reform bill, a move that the Agriculture Workforce Coalition says represents "an important step" in passing the full bill.
The amendment, offered by Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., would add 20,000 more patrol agents to the U.S.-Mexico border and increase funding for border security measures by $38 billion. It also includes several requirements that must be met before immigrants in the U.S. can be issued green cards: enhanced surveillance at the border, at least 700 miles of fencing at the southern border, full implementation of the E-Verify system and implementation of the electronic visa entry system at all air and sea ports.
After all requirements are met, 10 years must pass after the enactment of the bill before the green cards will be issued.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, I-Vt., who has been leading the discussion on the floor and prior to floor votes as leader of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the amendment brings further potential for bipartisan support in negotiations on the larger bill.
"This is not the amendment I would have drafted," Leahy said, but "Because their amendment will increase Republican support for this historic, comprehensive legislation, I will support it."
The Agriculture Workforce Coalition also welcomed the bipartisan support the amendment showcased Monday, and urged for a similar outcome as the Senate moves toward a final vote, possibly this week.
AWC pointed out that the bill includes legislation that the United Farm Workers and the AWC crafted with legislators this spring. The groups' draft included agricultural provisions that could be agreed on by both parties.
"These provisions are vital to ensuring that America's farmers and ranchers can find the workers they need to pick crops, prune trees or care for animals," AWC said Monday. "Agriculture stands united in support of the agriculture provisions contained in the Senate bill and we are committed to working throughout the legislative process to ensure that agricultural producers have access to a legal, stable and productive workforce."
The Senate has been working through amendments to the immigration legislation since passing the Farm Bill at the beginning of the month.
Read more on Agricultural Immigration:
Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Immigration Reform Bill
Agricultural Immigration Issue Unfolds
Long Week Ahead for Immigration Negotiations
All Parties 'Comfortable' With Ag Immigration Proposal
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