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Koch campaign touts bipartisan group behind ag labor immigration bill

Koch campaign touts bipartisan group behind ag labor immigration bill

A nonprofit group connected to conservative mega-donor Charles Koch's network on Friday announced a campaign to tout House members — Republicans and Democrats — who supported a bill to give legal status to thousands of undocumented farm workers.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) launched the campaign, which will include mailers and digital ads, to celebrate passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which cleared the House Wednesday on a bipartisan 260-165 vote.

“It is encouraging to see lawmakers work across party lines to better equip farmers and ranchers to hire the workers needed to meet industry demands," AFP Senior Vice President of Policy Jorge Lima said in a statement.

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The bill, a result of months of closed-door bipartisan policy discussions, would simplify the visa system for farmers to hire labor abroad and grant a new path to permanent residency for undocumented agricultural workers already in the country.

It would also grant the same path to permanent residency to family members of those agricultural workers.

The bill would also expand E-Verify, a federal database system designed to show potential employers whether individual foreign nationals are eligible to work in the United States and limit the workers' access to federal benefits.

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The White House has yet to comment on the bill, although some conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation have panned it as a form of "amnesty" for undocumented workers.

Still, the bipartisan effort marks a change in how immigration labor bills have been negotiated since 1986, and sends a bill to the Senate that's garnered support from both farmworkers and agricultural employers.

"This step in the right direction is a key opportunity for the Senate to seriously debate meaningful solutions for our country’s agriculture sector," said Lima.

Senate leadership has yet to comment when or if it will take up the bill, but agricultural businesses are likely to exert significant pressure on the upper chamber to move on it.

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