Visa problems plague guest worker program - The Packer

Visa problems plague guest worker program

07/31/2014 05:29:00 PM
Tom Karst

“Right now they are leaving (the border) and going back to their $8 per-day jobs,” he said.

Frank Gasperini, executive vice president of the Vienna, Va.-based National Council of Agricultural Employers, said he heard about a grower in Arizona that has been unable to bring in 200 guest workers, some of whom have been waiting in Tijuana more than a week.

“I don’t know that there is a real sense of urgency of how much this is impacting people,” Gasperini said.

Fazio said the U.S. government must resolve the long delays, which he said began to occur about July 7. Even if technical problems in the State Department’s computer system are solved, Fazio said there could be long delays at the border because of the backlog in processing guest workers.

As the U.S. deals with the much-publicized issue of thousands of undocumented children crossing the U.S. Mexican border, Fazio said the U.S. authorities must ensure legal agricultural guest workers can come to the U.S.

The U.S. also must address the guest worker program before it funds humanitarian relief efforts for border crossings. said Fazio.

“We are not going to have labor-intensive agriculture in this country unless we can get a usable guest worker program and this program is a long way from usable,” Fazio said.

Lee Wicker. deputy directory of the Vass, N.C.-based North Carolina Growers Association, said it is possible sweet potato growers in Mississippi or Louisiana will lack H-2A workers if delays continue. However, he said public and political pressure is building on the State Department.

“I expect them to get it fixed very quickly,” he said.

Growers rely heavily on the guest worker program and when it doesn’t deliver it can be devastating, he said.

“This problem with the State Department is a classic example of why growers in general have shunned the H-2A program,” he said.

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Steven Acre    
Turlock  |  August, 01, 2014 at 03:33 PM

The Federal government having computer problems? Oh...I forgot....that was Obamacare.

Produce Guy    
Texas  |  August, 04, 2014 at 08:00 AM

This would not be a problem if our own people would step up to the plate and work. We have a MAJOR WORK ETHIC PROBLEM in this country. The new generations have a COMPLETE AVERSION to manual labor. But don't take my word for it. Speak with business owners in every industry and they will tell you that turnover, employee abandonment and lack of motivated qualified applicants for anything that requires not sitting in a desk all day are at an all time high. The general excuse that we tend to hear is that wages are too low to attract qualified employees. While there is some truth to this statement, I can tell you from personal experience that this is not the real cause of the problem. Proof of this is the huge deficit of qualified workers that the oil industry is experiencing in Texas. With salaries starting in the mid 50's, it's hard to argue that money alone is the root of the labor shortage.

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