Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Oppose the new Bracero Program !

Take action to oppose Rep. Goodlatte’s expansion of the guest worker program

Update: The bill made it through committee !
AG VISA BILL ADVANCES: The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would create a new visa for agricultural businesses. The legislation, H.R. 4092 (115), sponsored by Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), squeaked by 17-16, confounding Morning Shift's expectation that opposition from Democrats and some Republicans would doom it. Two immigration hawks, Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), voted against the bill; five other Republicans abstained. 
"The bill would essentially scrap the H-2A visa and replace it with an H-2C program that would allow agricultural employers - such as meat processors, dairy farmers and loggers - with year-round work to apply," writes POLITICO's Sabrina Rodriguez. "The bill eliminates requirements that employers provide workers with transportation and housing, and it exempts workers from Fair Labor Standards Act compliance." Next stop is the House floor, where it faces steep odds. A similar measure passed out of committee in 2013 but was never taken up.
A more practical option for businesses could be the existing H-2A visa, which is available for temporary, seasonal agricultural work. Growers have increased their dependence on the visas in recent years: Labor Department H-2A certifications grew 63 percent in fiscal years 2013-2016. And H-2A visas may soon become available to a broader range of businesses. In September, the House passed a spending package, H.R. 3354 (115) , that included a rider to make the program available to year-round agriculture businesses (the same meat processors, dairy farmers and loggers mentioned above). The Senate hasn't marked up its bill yet.
The prospect of easier access to H-2A guestworkers worries Daniel Costa, director of immigration law and policy research at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. "The H-2A program could radically change in purpose and size without ever being debated in either the House or Senate Judiciary Committees, which are responsible for crafting immigration legislation," he wrote in a blog post on Wednesday. Read more from POLITICO's Rodriguez here and Costa here.

Rep. Goodlatte has announced he will introduce the “Agricultural Guestworker Act” in the Judiciary Committee for markup Tuesday, October 24. This bill creates a modern day Bracero program and would undermine the wages and working conditions of all agricultural workers. This bill comes at the same time that other members of Congress are trying to use the appropriations process to expand the scope of the current H-2A program in a way that will harm both US and immigrant workers.

Help the United Farm Workers and a broad coalition of almost 150 groups oppose this bill. Instead of taking agriculture back to the 1940’s, join us in asking Congress to refocus on the one thing that could stabilize agriculture quickly -- providing farm workers already laboring in the US with a path to lawful permanent residency and eventual citizenship.

The unwise expansion of the H-2A program and the creation of a new guestworker program would result in the displacement of US agricultural workers. Neither would protect the farm workers who do some of the most difficult work in America. Instead they would import guestworkers who have even fewer labor and political rights.

The efforts by Congressman Goodlatte to replace the H-2A program with a new agricultural visa system will create even more unfairness and dysfunction in our already broken immigration system. Even worse, it would deprive US citizens and lawful permanent residents of job opportunities. It does this by weakening the laws that requires US citizens and legal residents to be offered these jobs first. The bill expands access to guestworkers for even more employers, such as those in year-round processing. It would also lower farm workers’ already poor wages and allow exploitative conditions for hundreds of thousands of new guestworkers.

Instead, Congress needs to do the one thing that could stabilize agriculture quickly -- support the Agricultural Worker Program Act of 2017, authored by Senator Feinstein and Representative Gutierrez, which would provide undocumented agricultural workers with legal immigration status and an eventual path to citizenship. E-mail your congressmember today!

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