Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet announced a new farmworker reform bill on Thursday that would give legal status to undocumented farmworkers and reform the H-2A guestworker program, including, for the first time, visas for year-round agricultural work.
With congressional adjournment on the horizon, a parade of farmers, food processors, and lawmakers called on the Senate on Wednesday to get to work on legislation to give legal status to undocumented farmworkers and streamline the H-2A guestworker program. The House passed an ag labor bill 19 months ago, but nothing has emerged from behind-the-scenes negotiations in the Senate on the issue.
Foreign-born workers are an essential part of the U.S. food supply chain, and if the nation wants to stabilize food prices, it’s going to need a lot more of them, according to new research released this week by the American Immigration Council. The group, which advocates for immigrants throughout the U.S., found that ag employers are struggling to retain enough workers amid a national labor crisis that is fueling higher prices at grocery stores.
The Senate is reviewing bipartisan legislation that would overhaul and expand the nation’s H-2A program, which provides temporary work visas to hundreds of thousands of agricultural workers. Legislators who support the bill argue it would provide farmers with a more stable workforce and lower food prices for consumers. But some Republican lawmakers are concerned that the legislation would grant farmworkers too many rights.
Senate Republicans threw up barriers on Wednesday to a House-passed bill that would give legal status to undocumented farmworkers and streamline the H-2A guestworker program. They called for action first to tighten control of the U.S.-Mexico border and vowed to vote against "amnesty" for undocumented farmworkers, who are estimated to make up half of the agricultural labor force.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she will work with fellow senators to give legal status to undocumented farmworkers and streamline the H-2A visa system for agricultural guestworkers. "It's time to give farmers the help they need and protect the essential workers who work hard to put food on our tables," said Feinstein, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In a 247-174 vote, the Democrat-led House passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act on Thursday, which would provide a path to legal status for almost one million immigrant farmworkers and reform the existing H-2A visa program for agricultural workers.
The Democrat-controlled House put a bill giving legal status to undocumented farmworkers and streamlining the H-2A guestworker program on the legislative fast track on Tuesday. Party leaders hope to score a victory this week on a popular idea — an earlier version of the bill passed with bipartisan backing in 2019 — even as support for comprehensive immigration reform is lacking.
Rebuffed by the Senate last year, two U.S. representatives on Wednesday reintroduced their bipartisan bill to create legal status for undocumented farmworkers and to streamline the H-2A visa program for guestworkers.
Democrats introduced companion bills in the House and Senate on Thursday for a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration law. The bills, backed by President Biden, include an expedited three-year path to citizenship for some undocumented farmworkers.
Immigration reform, including legal status for farmworkers, is vital for assuring U.S. economic strength, said chairman Jerry Nadler of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Congress has deadlocked repeatedly over immigration, whether comprehensive legislation or piecemeal reforms, but President Biden, on his first day in office, called for a thorough overhaul of immigration law.
The estimated 1.25 million undocumented farmworkers in the United States would immediately gain legal status under the immigration reform bill unveiled by President Joe Biden on Wednesday, his first day in office. If passed, the bill would make the farmworkers eligible for green cards and, after three years, open a pathway for becoming U.S. citizens.
U.S. farmers and ranchers face a labor shortage because “no one in America wants to do this kind of work anymore,” said the president of the largest U.S. farm group on Monday in calling for year-round agricultural guestworkers. “Immigration reform is absolutely critical,” agreed Beth Ford, …
In a lawsuit accusing the Trump administration of trying to suppress wages, farmworker groups asked a federal judge to set aside a Labor Department rule on pay to agricultural guestworkers that could cut their earnings by $170 million over a decade. The Labor Department rule, which indirectly affects wages for all farmworkers, is scheduled to take effect on Dec. 21.
The USDA will have to go ahead with its semiannual survey of farmworker wages under a ruling issued Wednesday by a U.S. district court judge. Farmworker advocates say the Trump administration, by attempting to abandon the survey, is trying to depress farm wages.
Agricultural guestworkers will see sharply lower wages because of the USDA's decision to cancel a semiannual survey that is used to calculate their pay, said a lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal district court in Fresno, California. The suit asks the court to order the USDA to carry out the October survey so that the Labor Department can use the results to set minimum wages for the country's 250,000 or more H-2A guestworkers.
People in some of California’s poorest towns still face exorbitant prices on staple foods more than a month after the governor declared a state of emergency that made price gouging illegal. The practice has been particularly insidious in farmworker towns like El Centro, in the Imperial Valley, and Delano, in the San Joaquin Valley. In both towns, like so many of the state’s farmworker communities, more than a quarter of residents live in poverty and most are Latino.(No paywall)
To aid farmers worried about an imminent labor shortage, two federal departments said on Thursday that they will help farms find foreign and domestic workers who may be eligible to transfer from one agricultural employer to another. (No paywall)