When I became Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in January of this year, I had one primary goal: to ensure that America’s farmers and ranchers have the policies in place that they need to feed, fuel, and clothe the nation while ensuring stability and consistency for farmers, ranchers, consumers, markets, and rural communities. After all, agriculture is the foundation of our livelihood and the lifeblood of rural America. And, while our work will never be done, we are off to a great start.
Goodlatte & Berry Introduce Bipartisan H2A Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Congressman Marion Berry (D-AK) today introduced H.R. 3857, the “Temporary Agricultural Labor Reform Act of 2005,” legislation to modernize and improve the flexibility of the temporary visa program (H-2A), permitting foreign workers to enter the U.S. on a temporary or seasonal basis to engage in unskilled agricultural work.
“The U.S. needs a better guest worker program for agriculture. Under the current H-2A program, workers are subjected to a frustrating process that only encourages more illegal entry, while agriculture employers are forced to either participate in this costly, time-consuming, flawed program, or take the risk of hiring illegal workers. We need a reform of the H-2A program that promotes border security by allowing guest workers to come and go legally----a reform that will streamline the costly and time-consuming process and establish a fair wage standard. This legislation accomplishes that,” said Goodlatte.
“Our country needs to do everything it can to get border security under control,” said Congressman Marion Berry. “By enacting commonsense reforms to our guest worker program we can strengthen national security and help our farmers access workers when there are no Americans available to perform the tasks. This proposal would deter illegal immigration and enable our farmers to manage their business without jumping through hoops of red-tape and unnecessary applications.”
This legislation simplifies and shortens the H-2A application process, permitting foreign workers to enter the U.S. to do unskilled agricultural work. Specifically, H.R. 3857 does the following:
• maintains the current requirement that employers actively recruit U.S. workers for agricultural jobs;
• does not provide amnesty for those who are in the U.S. illegally;
• allows workers who are currently in the country illegally a one-time chance to return home and re-enter legally to participate in the H-2A program;
• removes incentives for illegal entry and frees up enforcement assets to strengthen border security;
• eliminates the Adverse Effect Wage Rate and replaces it with a prevailing wage standard;
• ensures that employers who misrepresent their need for foreign workers will be disqualified from the program; and
• gives the agriculture industry a more functional and streamlined program by simplifying the application process.
Some critics of the current H-2A program contend that agriculture would be best served by rewarding the illegal population with an adjustment to Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status, or Amnesty, an approach that Goodlatte opposes.
“Granting amnesty would reward the illegal population by making them legal residents in return for coming into the country illegally and breaking our laws. Furthermore, it would encourage more people to come into the U.S. illegally with the thought that they, too, will be rewarded for their illegal actions. Amnesty would send the wrong message to those foreign nationals who are actually trying to comply with our laws, and encourage further exploitation of farm workers who take the risk and cross the border illegally, oftentimes through treacherous conditions," noted Goodlatte.