Guestworker Visa Bills for Migrant Farmworkers in the 112th Congress
HR 2847 - The American Specialty Agriculture Act
Sponsor: Lamar Smith, (TX)
Official Title: A bill to create a nonimmigrant H-2C work visa program for agricultural workers, and for other purposes.
Introduced: September 7, 2011
Sept. 7, 2011 - Read twice and referred to: House Education and the Workforce, House Judiciary.
Sept. 8, 2011 - Subcommittee hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement.
- Would bring in hundreds of thousands of new guestworkers and would do nothing to address the status of the one million undocumented skilled farmworkers already here, according to analysis by Farmworker Justice
- Replaces the current guestworker program (H2-A) with H2-C program
- Reduces the transportation reimbursement for these low-wage workers
- Reduces the promise of a minimum amount of work from ¾ to 50%
- Limits worker access to judicial relief and legal assistance, leaving U.S. and foreign workers with extremely limited means to protect their rights
- Eliminates guaranteed housing for workers: Instead of providing housing, employers could provide workers a housing allowance (imagine trying to find housing from your home country without knowing anyone in the area prior to arriving…)
HR 2895 - Legal Agricultural Workforce Act
Sponsor: Dan Lungren (CA)
Official Title: A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for a temporary agricultural worker program, and for other purposes.
Introduced: September 12, 2011
Latest action: Sept. 12, 2011 - Read twice and referred to: House Education and the Workforce, House Energy and Commerce, House Foreign Affairs, House Judiciary.
- Would create a new "W" workers program H2-A program would continue to exist
- Proposes a massive new uncapped guestworker program with no meaningful labor protections or enforcement for workers
- No provision requiring employer to provide housing for workers
- No transportation reimbursement
- No guarantee of a minimum amount of employment
- "At a time of record unemployment, the creation of an additional uncapped guestworker program would be disastrous. Lungren's bill would harm the hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers in agriculture, do nothing to address the presence of roughly one million undocumented workers already here, and would provide agricultural employers with access to hundreds of thousands of additional foreign workers at low wages with minimal government oversight," cites a report by Farmworker Justice.
Where does FCNL stand on these two bills?
- There is no eventual path to citizenship
- There is no or decreased guarantee of minimum amount of employment
- There is no or poor transportation to country of origin reimbursement
- Wouldn't protect American agricultural workers (Would make it more attractive for big agricultural businesses to hire immigrants over already employed or available American citizens)
- Does not address the issue of the one million undocumented agricultural workers currently in the U.S.
Neither bill has moved forward in the legislative process. At a congressional hearing on February 9, 2012 in the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement entitled Regional Perspectives on Agricultural Guestworker Programs, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA) called the current system "a mess" in dire need of an overhaul. But she said she was under no illusion that Congress would tackle the issue this year. Overall, the lawmakers at the hearing sounded pessimistic about the prospect of making any changes to agricultural guest worker programs in an election year.
More resources on Guestworker Programs:
- Farmworker Justice's FACT SHEET: The H-2A Temporary Agricultural Guestworker Program
- CLOSE TO SLAVERY: Guestworker Programs in the United States a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center