It’s been a long time since significant immigration reform that will help American growers has passed Congress. The most promising reform proposed this year — H.R. 4092 or the Ag Worker Act — cleared a major hurdle when it passed out of committee last week.
But there were some significant amendments made to the bill before that milestone, changes that affect how the proposed new H-2C program would operate.
Two major industry associations, Western Growers and United Fresh Produce Association, find the changes concerning.
“Several amendments to the bill that were passed pose significant impediments to securing an adequate guestworker program,” United Fresh says in its public statement. “As the bill moves forward, we are committed to seeking improvements in this legislation that will ensure a legal and viable workforce is available to the agriculture community. We intend to continue to work with Chairman Goodlatte, House members of both parties, and the Senate to address our concerns and improvements needed in a final bill. Agriculture must be assured that our current workforce has a path forward toward legal stability and security and we have a workable future agriculture guestworker program.”
Here are the amendments that Western Growers see as most concerning:
- Lowering the cap on visas;
- Eliminating the work authorization period for the current workforce;
- Allowing Ag to access the green card system in the future; and
- A ‘touchback’ provision for workers before they are eligible for the H-2C program.
“During the committee process several changes were made to the legislation that would make this bill unworkable, particularly when coupled with expedited mandatory E-Verify,” says Western Growers’ CEO Tom Nassif. “We must ensure practical and reasonable solutions are achieved for both the current and future workforce that American farmers depend on in order for our industry to remain competitive. In the coming days, we will continue to work with House Leadership, Chairman Goodlatte and every member of the House to secure improvements to this legislation.”