Under the bill, illegal immigrants who can show they have labored in agriculture for at least 150 work days for the past two years would become eligible for a "blue card" bestowing temporary legal status. People with the cards who work at least 150 days per year for an additional three years; or at least 10 days per year, for an additional five years would be eligible for legal residency.
Opponents of the bill say immigrants provide cheap, exploitable labor to the industry and deflate wages for American employers. They also contend such workers become a drain on taxpayers because the workers, once eligible, turn to welfare, Medicaid and other social programs. But proponents are getting support from growers who saw their crops left to waste in fields because of farm worker shortages last year.
The blue card program would end after five years, unless it is renewed. The bill would reduce the time it takes to get a visa for an immigrant who wants to come to the U.S. to work in agriculture.