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Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today gave remarks at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Immigrant Farmworkers Are Essential to Feeding America” on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which passed the House of Representatives in March.

The bill would prevent farmworkers already working in the United States from being deported by providing legal status to eligible workers and their families. The bill also reforms the H-2A visa program, stabilizing wages and providing a streamlined process for guest workers to come into the United States.

Agriculture is $1 trillion industry in the United States and a $50 billion industry in California. According to the Labor Department, immigrant farmworkers make up an estimated 75 percent of agriculture workers in the United States today and an estimated 50 percent of those workers are undocumented.

Full text of the remarks follows and video is available here:

“This is a really important bill for California. It’s estimated that we have about 280,000 people that would be affected by it.

Last [Congress], as you may know, Mr. Chairman, I did a bill that dealt with this. But it didn’t go anywhere, and this year the House has passed this bill.

I really think it has merit and it will stand the test of time. It passed the House in March, a bipartisan vote of 247-174.

It allows undocumented farmworkers who have worked for years in this country, who have paid their taxes, and who can pass a criminal and security background check to legally remain in the United States and potentially earn a green card.

It creates a year-round H-2A visa category that will help industries like dairy, a big industry in my state that need more long-term workers.

It also creates a pilot program for portable visas that will help states – like a big one, California – where workers need to move from region to region according to the schedule of multiple crops.

It’s a good faith bill that reflects months of careful negotiations between lawmakers, growers and labor. And we all know this isn’t always easy to do.

What I like about it is it’s comprehensive in scope, measured in its objectives, and has bipartisan support. Most importantly, it gives farmers the help they need and protects essential farmworkers who work hard to put food on our tables.

So I just want to say that I’m delighted that you scheduled this. I thank you and the ranking member and I strongly support the balanced and thoughtful approach.

One step is done because it has effectively passed the House and we might just get something done.”