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.
Upon completion of this future work obligation, the workers will obtain permanent legal status and the right to work in whatever industries they choose.
Farmers and ranchers have long experienced difficulty in obtaining workers who are willing and able to work on farms and in fields. Jobs in agriculture are physically demanding, conducted in all seasons and are often transitory. To most U.S. residents seeking employment, these conditions are not attractive. A number of studies document this fact, and farm worker representatives also acknowledged this in recent congressional testimony. Yet, for many prospective workers from other countries, these jobs present real economic opportunities.
In times of shortages farmers have relied on these foreign workers who are admitted under a government sponsored temporary worker program known as H-2A and on workers who appear to have legal status to be working in the United States. The demand for foreign workers is heightened due to not only a lack of a domestic workforce, but also the reverse migration of workers from the U.S. to Mexico, historic levels of immigration enforcement and bipartisan congressional commitment to a credible work authorization system through mandatory E-Verify. All AWC members agree that those factors, along with an increasingly rigid and burdensome H-2A program demonstrate the need for a new approach.
Reforms to the immigration system can assure that American agriculture has a legal, stable supply of workers, both in the short- and long-term for all types of agriculture. This requires a legislative solution that deals with the current unauthorized and experienced agricultural workforce and ensures that future needs are met through a program that will admit a sufficient number of willing and able workers in a timely manner. Past legislative proposals (e.g. AgJOBS, HARVEST Act, BARN Act and other bills) have attempted to reform the H-2A program to ensure a future workforce in agriculture. However, it is apparent that those proposals are no longer viable to meet agriculture’s needs.