A bill that offers labor solutions to agricultural producers and legal residency for some undocumented workers was approved in the U.S. House Wednesday.
The bill passed 260-165, with with support from both Democrats and Republicans.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would revamp the H-2A guest worker program, establish a mandatory E-verify system and allow undocumented ag workers to earn a renewable five-and-a-half-year Certified Agricultural Worker status.
Supporters say the bipartisan support for the bill means it has good chance of Senate approval.
But critics were quick to call it an amnesty program for people here illegally.
Still, the prospect of a stable seasonal labor force earned the bill strong backing from agricultural interests.
The bill was co-sponsored by Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican from Washington’s Fourthh Congressional District.
Rep. Kim Schrier, a Democrat from the Eighth District, joined Newhouse in voting for the bill.
Schrier said a stable agricultural labor force is vital to the economy of her district, which includes Chelan County and its abundant tree fruit operations.