The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday advanced a bill that would expand the H-2A foreign guestworker program and provide a major amnesty for illegal farm workers — an attempt to solve the nation’s false sense of an agricultural labor shortage pushed by proponents of open borders. The measure, H.R. 5038, was approved by voice vote after a marathon markup. It has been spearheaded by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chairwoman of the House Judiciary Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) is the lead Republican co-sponsor and is joined by 20 other members of his party.

But several top Republicans on the committee opposed the bill because they argue it provides “amnesty” to undocumented immigrants working on farms. Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) criticized Democrats for marking up the bill “without the slightest idea” of how many farmworkers would be able to seek legal status under the legislation. “We’re dealing more with status than the worker situation,” said ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who noted repeatedly that the American Farm Bureau Federation does not support the bill.

Democrats defended the bill as a critical way to improve farmworkers’ well being and provide producers with a steady (cheap and easily replaceable) labor supply. During the markup, members adopted just one amendment from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) that would extend the provisions allowing farmworkers to seek legal status to temporary protected status workers. Republicans offered a slew of amendments, but they were all defeated, such as one from Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) that would move oversight of the H-2A program from the Labor Department to USDA.

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Updated: Thu, Dec 5th 2019 @ 11:15am EST