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Senate passes immigration reform, 68-32

2013_0627_UFW_FieldFoto
Winery workers from Sunnyside, Wash., joined others in a United Farm Workers photo campaign in support of the Senate immigration bill. (United Farm Workers)


The Senate today passed an immigration reform bill that includes special provisions to allow current undocumented agricultural workers to gain citizenship after working for another five years in agriculture, and which would create a new guest worker program.

The vote of 68-32 was announced by Vice President Joe Biden.

The voting took place under extraodinary circumstances. As a reflection of the importance of the bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., asked all the senators to be in their seats and to rise and vote. The galleries were packed with tourists and journalists.

A broad group of agriculture employers known as the Ag Workforce Coalition and the United Farm Workers reached agreement on the agriculture provisions, which were inserted into the bill by a group of senators led by Sen Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

In recent days, UFW members have sent pictures of themselves in the fields to the senators and today planned rallies in several California cities to celebrate passage of the Senate legislation and to urge the House to pass a similar measure.

Several key senators from farm states did not support the bill. They included Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.

Chambliss argued that the agriculture provisions made it too easy for the farm workers to gain citizenship and would not create a stable workforce. Chambliss proposed a series of amendments to make changes to the agriculture provisions but the leadership did not allow them to come to a vote on the Senate floor.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said today that the House would not take up the Senate bill and that he would hold a meeting of Republicans on July 10 to figure out a path forward on immigration.

“The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes. We’re going to do our own bill, through regular order, and it’ll be legislation that reflects the will of our majority and the will of the American people,” Boehner said at a news conference.

“For any legislation — including a conference report — to pass the House, it’s going to have to be a bill that has the support of a majority of our members.”