Floor Speech in Support of H.R. 1603, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021
Mar 18, 2021
Contact: Speaker’s Press Office,
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 1603, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Madam Speaker, for the recognition. I thank the gentleman for yielding. And once again, I salute him for the excellent work of his committee, bringing this important legislation, H.R. 1603, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, to the Floor.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this critical victory for farm workers and growers, who've come together in support of this legislation – this legislation, which ensures that America can continue to feed the world.
Thank you to Chair Zoe Lofgren, the Chair of the Immigration Subcommittee, for her years of relentless leadership on behalf of farm workers, without which this bill would not be possible. I sang her praises earlier as a former teacher of immigration, immigration lawyer and Chair of the immigration committee. She knows of what she legislates.
I think that it's clear to see there are a number of Californians involved in this and I want to salute Mr. Costa and Mr. Carbajal, who were an important part of this. They represent farmland in California. They know the needs of the workers. They respect the involvement of the growers. And this, again, is a wonderful bill.
We salute many Members representing every corner of the country, whose vision and values have strengthened this bill that has truly been a Caucus- and Congress-wide effort. And thank you to the United Farm Workers for their outstanding organizing, which made this possible. In addition to our work internally, their outside mobilization is so important.
We're also inspired by the immortal words of our beloved Dolores Huerta, ‘sí se puede’ – yes we can, and yes we will and yes we are doing. It had been an honor last year at this time to celebrate her 90th birthday in the Rayburn Room – the last event we had before COVID took over. So, here we are, a year later. This is probably a better celebration.
Passing the Farm Workforce Modernization Act and doing so on a bipartisan basis was a source of pride in the last Congress, and it is now. With the Democratic Majority in the Senate and President Biden in the White House, when we pass it again, it is with better assurance that it will become law. The bill honors the millions of farm workers who are the backbone of our economy, quietly persevering through harsh working conditions and low wages, as they power the farm economy and put food on our tables.
As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has written, ‘The dignity of work of farm workers and their families is a central concern.’ Farm workers produce the food we eat and contribute to the care of our community. This legislation, while long overdue, is urgently needed now in light of the coronavirus crisis, which is forcing our essential workers, farm workers, to live and work under a cloud of fear and uncertainty about their health and their jobs.
At the same time, the pandemic has accelerated a labor crisis in the farm economy that endangers farmers and producers and requires action, and this action today is an agreement between the growers and the farm workers. This legislation supports workers and the farm economy with strong, smart reforms. The bill provides a path to legalization for more than one million currently undocumented farm workers. No one who works to feed our country should be condemned to permanent second class status. The bill establishes the agriculture work force of the future by modernizing the H-2A initiative, so farms have stable, secure workforces. And critically it demands fair, humane treatment for farm workers by securing fairness in pay, improving access to quality housing and ensuring robust safety and heat illness protections.
Any of us who visited farm workers in the fields, and some of our Members had been farm workers themselves, their children are farm workers, know the environment, the heat, the chemicals, the rest, are a challenge. This legislation is a critical step forward for our workers, for our growers and the farm economy. But our work is not done.
Congress will continue to stabilize the farm economy, protect workers and families, maintain America's agricultural preeminence in the world. And under the leadership of President Biden, we will continue to work fully to fix our immigration system so we can honor America's proud immigrant heritage and advance a better future for all.
Earlier I quoted President Reagan. I want to do so again more fully. The earlier I quoted – when I spoke on the Floor about Dreamers before, I did so for eight hours and six minutes. I promised earlier today to be shorter, and so I didn't give as much of President Reagan's speech. This is the last – this is what he said.
‘And since this is the last speech that I will give as President, I think it is fitting to leave one final thought, an observation about a country I love.’ He went on to talk about the statue of liberty, Madam Speaker. He said, ‘The torch of Lady Liberty symbolizes our freedom and represents our heritage, the compact with our parents, our grandparents and our ancestors. It is that lady [who] gives us our great and special place in the world. For it’s the great life force of each generation of new Americans – ’ new Americans ‘– that guarantees that America's triumph shall continue unsurpassed into the next century and beyond.’ New Americans. ‘Other countries may seek to compete with us. But in one vital area, as a beacon of freedom and opportunity that draws people of the world, no country on Earth comes close.’
As I said earlier, he said, ‘This I believe is one of the most important sources of America's greatness. We lead the world because, unique among nations, we draw people, our people – our strength – from every country and every corner of the world. And [by] doing so, we continuously renew and enrich our nation. While other [countries] cling to the stale past, here in America we breathe life into dreams. We create the future and the world follows us into tomorrow. ‘
‘Thanks to each wave –’ President Reagan said, ‘Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we’re a nation forever [young], forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the next frontier. This quality is vital to our future as a nation. If we ever close the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world will soon be lost…That being the last speech that I will give as President,’ President Reagan said, ‘and I think it is fitting to leave one final thought, an observation, about the country I love.’
As we remember the words of President Reagan, I also recall the words of the late César Chávez whose birthday we celebrate later this month. And he said, ‘To make a great dream come true, the first requirement is a great capacity to dream. The second is persistence.’
Thanks to all of our Members, bipartisan Members, for their persistence on this legislation, for which I urge a strong bipartisan aye vote and yield back the balance of my time.