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July 2, 2013 | 11:05 AM

Wine Briefs this week from Wine Institute:

Senate Passes Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill With Strong Bipartisan Support
The Senate passed S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” with a strong, bipartisan vote of 68-32 on Thursday, June 27th. The bill’s passage represents the most sweeping revamp of the nation’s immigration laws to pass either chamber of Congress in over 25 years and shifts the focus of the immigration reform debate to the House of Representatives.

The Senate-passed bill includes critical agricultural worker programs designed to create a sufficient, stable workforce to meet the labor needs of the agriculture industry in California and across the country. Among a broad range of immigration provisions, S. 744 includes language enacting an agreement on agricultural workers that is the product of long and protracted negotiations between producers and labor that was brought about through the work of Senator Dianne Feinstein and many groups including the Ag Workforce Coalition of which Wine Institute is a member. The key components are a new “Blue Card” program that provides a path to earned legal status for undocumented agricultural workers already in the country as well as a new “W” visa program that will provide a new pool of agricultural workers that can meet the changing needs of the labor market.

House Republican leaders have stated repeatedly that they do not plan to take up the Senate bill in the House. Many House conservatives object to the path to citizenship included in the Senate bill and do not believe the bill’s border security provisions are strong enough, even though the Senate added a last minute amendment to the bill which significantly increased funding for various border security provisions. Given these concerns, the most likely course of action will be for the House to take a piecemeal approach whereby it will consider several smaller, more narrowly focused immigration bills focused on border security, e-verify and agricultural workers. These bills would then become the basis for the House to begin negotiating with the Senate on compromise legislation.

The next critical step will come on July 10th, after the House returns from its week-long July 4th recess, when House Republicans will be holding a special meeting with their leaders to discuss how to proceed.                                                                               
                                                                                                  --Wine Institute

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