National Editor Tom Karst Just when the agriculture community is getting hopes up for a run at comprehensive immigration reform by Congress and President Obama this spring, there is all kinds of hot, white noise on gun control and the federal debt ceiling. Not a good sign.
Still, with Republicans chastened by the 2012 election results and Democrats emboldened to make good on the promise of immigration reform, there could be a chance.
From the AWC:
Proposal for Reform
U.S. agriculture faces a critical shortage of workers every year, as citizens are largely unwilling to engage in these rigorous activities and guestworker programs are unable to respond to the marketplace. This situation makes our farms and ranches less competitive with foreign farmers and less reliable for the American consumer. Securing a reliable and competent workforce for our nation’s farms and ranches is essential to agriculture and to the U.S. economy.
This crisis must be addressed through legislative reform that includes both a program (the Agricultural Worker Program component) to provide access to a legal workforce into the future and an adjustment for current experienced unauthorized agricultural workers (the Current Workforce component).
Agricultural Worker Program
The uncapped Agricultural Worker Visa Program (“AWP”) will ensure agriculture’s future legal workforce. The AWP allows both employer and employee choice and flexibility by including two options:
“At-Will” employees have the freedom to move from employer to employer without any contractual commitment. They would have a visa term of up to 11 months with USDA registered employers and then return home for 30 days. There would be no limit on the number of times a person could obtain the 11-month visa.
Contract employees commit to work for an employer for a fixed period of time and would have a visa term of up to 12 months (renewable indefinitely), and conditioned upon a commitment to return to their home country for at least 30 days over a 3-year period.
In order to minimize the impact on current economic activity, the AWC supports an adjustment of status for experienced but unauthorized agricultural workers who currently reside in the U.S. This adjustment should include the following components:
These workers have a future obligation to work for a number of days annually in agriculture for several years.