Much of production agriculture in the U.S. is vying for improvements and wholesale reform of the H-2A agricultural guest worker program. Others also see deep flaws in the program, though perhaps not for the same reasons.
A press conference call is set for Wednesday, Sept. 7, by Farmworker Justice. A notice about the event trumpets that "Farmworker Justice Unveils Abuses in Agricultural Guest Worker Program: New Report Illustrates Human Toll of Flawed Visa Program."
From the press notice about the event and the new report:
"According to the report, the H-2A visa, a program meant to provide a legal workforce for farmers to harvest crops in the absence of domestic labor, lacks needed protections for the thousands of guest workers laboring to put food on America’s tables.
Farmworker Justice President Bruce Goldstein will host the call with United Farm Workers President, Arturo Rodriguez, and National Guestworkers’ Alliance Director, Saket Soni. They will discuss the inherent problems of the guest worker model and outline a path forward for the United States to ensure its agricultural labor force while honoring its roots as a nation of immigrants. They will also respond to the recent push for federally mandated E-Verify and the devastating effect it would have on American agriculture.
Guest workers make up roughly 10 percent of the agricultural labor force in the United States, between 50 – 70 percent of which is composed of undocumented workers. Even during a period of high unemployment and economic recession in the United States, the U.S. Department of Labor has expanded approval of H-2A visas for entering farmworkers by 80 percent from 2005 to 2009."
So the question is now: what is the "path forward" to ensure an adequate supply of agricultural labor while "honoring its roots" as a nation of immigrants?
Farmworker advocates no doubt would like to see a path to legalization for farmworkers who are now illegal immigrants. That concept isn't likely to gain traction in the current political environment. And while reform is sought by desperate growers, labor activists won't agree to make the guest worker program easier to use going forward.
From what I can tell, the Farmworker Justice press conference will be another chapter in the book of dysfunctional American immigration policy.