An agriculture-friendly guest worker program is being considered as a potential amendment to mandatory E-Verify legislation.
Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., is working with agriculture groups on the plan, said Diane Kurrle, vice president of public affairs for the U.S. Apple Association, Vienna, Va.
The Lungren amendment doesn’t deal with the current work force, which is disappointing to industry, said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy. It is possible, he said, that the Senate may consider current workers in its approach.
Still, Lungren’s plan may be the best the industry can do to balance out the enforcement provisions of mandatory E-Verify legislation. Mandatory use of E-Verify could knock more than 50% of agricultural laborers out of work, industry sources have said.
Kurrle said Lungren has developed a draft amendment that he hopes to attach to the E-Verify bill. The amendment would create a guest worker plan that would be administered by U.S. Department of Agriculture. Currently the H-2A guest worker program for agriculture is run by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Lungren’s plan would be market-oriented and not carry the same housing requirements as the current H-2A program, Kurrle said.
Speaking on background about the Lungren amendment, one Capitol Hill source said the USDA would set the quota on how many agricultural workers would be needed for the program. Workers could work in the U.S. for 10 months and then be required to return to their home country for two months.
“I think his approach is much more free market, much more similar to what you have with domestic workers,” Kurrle said.
E-Verify legislation may be considered by the committee before August, Kurrle said the Lungren amendment would be a big step in the right direction. However, she said the amendment could face an uphill battle on the conservative dominated Judiciary Committee.