Just because finding a solution to the problem of undocumented ag workers and a broken U.S. immigration policy makes sense to nearly everyone doesn’t make it certain our politicians will act on it.
In fact, it seems there has been a perpetual sense of crisis about labor for more than a decade now, with growers repeatedly arguing on Capitol Hill for a way to hire legal workers and pleading for meaningful reform to the H-2A agricultural guest-worker program.
Meanwhile, federal and state lawmakers — particularly Republicans — have been grandstanding over the issue, occasionally tightening immigration laws but giving no clear way ahead to legalize the existing farm labor work force or to make the H-2A program easier to use.
But there are growing hopes Congress will consider and pass meaningful immigration reform.
Republicans seem open to moving immigration reform as a way of mending fences with the growing Latino electorate that continues to ignore the GOP in national elections.
Sensing an opening, ag lobbyists want a guest-worker program as a part of any legislative package and want the new program to expand the definition of agriculture to include packinghouses and processors, which are excluded under the H-2A program.
While maintaining the requirement for a initial job offer before foreign workers come to the U.S., the desired solution also would remove mandatory transportation and housing provisions, remove the guaranteed work period and allow workers to follow jobs from farm to farm.
These specifics will be debated in 2013, but the important truth seems to be that Congress will take up immigration reform with an intent to accomplish it.
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