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.
Two managers of a Florida farm-labor contracting company are going to federal prison for their role in a multi-state racketeering and human trafficking scheme. Between 2015 and 2017, federal prosecutors say, the company forced more than a dozen workers on H-2A visas to harvest crops against their will, while paying them less than they were owed. (No paywall)
The Labor Department said it had strengthened worker protections in the agricultural guestworker program in two regulations announced on Thursday. One applies to the H-2A program and will take effect on Nov. 14. The other involves temporary labor certification under H-2A and will appear in the Federal Register next week.
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.
Hundreds of thousands of undocumented farmworkers could gain employment and travel authorization under provisions in the social welfare and climate change bill drafted by House Democrats. But while the proposal would relieve fears of deportation, it was far less than the pathway to citizenship that is the goal of some activists.
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.
Farmworkers earned less than 60 percent of what comparable workers did off the farm last year, says an Economic Policy Institute blog. The wage gap in 2020 was virtually unchanged from 2019.
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.
The House will vote on two popular proposals for immigration reform this week, offering a pathway to citizenship for so-called Dreamers and offering legal status to undocumented farmworkers, said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. The ag labor bill would also streamline the H-2A visa for guestworkers.
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.
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.
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.