Dignity or Exploitation ?
WHAT FUTURE FOR FARMWORKER FAMILIES IN THE UNITED STATES?
H-2A Leads a Race to the Bottom for Farmworkers
But the most far-reaching bill dealing with H-2A workers was introduced in Congress in 2019 by Zoe Lofgren, a
Democrat from Silicon Valley, together with Dan Newhouse. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 essentially ties legalization for undocumented farmworkers and guest worker programs together.161 This compromise bill would guarantee growers a labor supply at a price they want to pay, while at the same time providing a pathway to legal residence for many undocumented farmworkers.
The House passed this bill, and it died in the Senate. Un- der a new Biden administration, the pressure from growers and Washington lobbyists will be intense to revive it as the centerpiece of its immigration agenda. Representative Raul Ruiz told the Los Angeles Times that the administration was developing a package of executive orders and Congressio- nal bills that would incorporate provisions from legislation already passed by the Democrat-controlled House of Rep- resentatives. Included was the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.162
Since half of current workers have no legal status, an even more predictable impact of the mandatory use of E-Verify would be to make it harder for employers to find workers they can legally hire. The half of the workforce that is currently undocumented would eventually shrink as people applied for green cards, gained legal status, and found better-paying jobs elsewhere. The other half of the workforce – people who are citizens or have legal immigration status – will shrink as well over time, particularly because the average age of farmworkers has increased from 28 in 2000 to 38 today.166
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act had several provisions to make the H-2A program more attractive. One, suspending for one year the increase in the Adverse Effect Wage Rate, was already announced by President Trump the day before the election.167 After ten years, the AEWR would be evaluated and could be abolished altogether. The net
The bill did contain some pro-worker changes in the H-2A program. Ten thousand holders of H-2A visas per year would be able to transfer from the employer that recruited them to another employer, which is presently not allowed. H-2A workers would be covered by the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Protection Act (AWPA), offering some protection from abuses. Employers could sponsor 40,000 farmworkers, including both undocumented and H-2A workers, for green cards each year. Many workers want residence status badly, but giving employers the power to petition also makes workers more vulnerable to threats and pressure.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act itself was overtaken by election politics, but Republicans and centrist Democrats can be expected to reintroduce its main elements, putting before the Biden administration the basic question of the direction for U.S. immigration policy. The flow of many Mexican and Central American migrants across the border will either be increasingly imprisoned in a system of cheap and disposable labor by growers, or it will be integrated into families and communities able to fight for rights, legal status, unions, and a better standard of living.
Its in the report: https://www.oaklandinstitute.org/dignity-or-exploitation
The bill, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act passed the Democratic controlled House in 2019.
It is on the House agenda now.
With Susannah Luthi.
IMMIGRATION ON THE MIND: It is a big week for immigration. The House is poised to vote on two immigration bills this week, both narrower pieces of legislation while Democrats weigh how ambitious to go with President Joe Biden’s comprehensive immigration plan. All of this is unfolding amid a growing debate about how to address the surging numbers of migrant children and families being detained at the U.S.-Mexico border.
1) The Dream and Promise Act would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers, young immigrants who were brought to the country as children and have remained in the country illegally. This bill also provides a path to citizenship for the immigrants living in the U.S. with Temporary Protected Status. Seven House Republicans supported this legislation last time around.
2) The second bill, the Farm Modernization Workforce Act, aims to provide a path to citizenship for farm workers who are living in the country illegally. Thirty-four Republicans supported this legislation last Congress.
Both bills passed the House last session but weren’t taken up in the Senate. Still, despite Dems’ narrow majority, the bills as they currently stand are unlikely to get the 60 needed votes to pass in the upper chamber. (This has also fueled talk of including key immigration provisions to Dems’ next use of the reconciliation process.) Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is talking with Republicans about a narrow bipartisan approach on Dreamers.
Please inform yourselves well.