May 10, 2011

Immigration Reality vs. Politics: Fixing the guest-worker program

An LA Times editorial that gives some important facts about the H-2A agriculture worker visa program, including that it provides "only about 3% of the total agricultural workforce, according to Western Growers, a trade association that represents farmers in California and Arizona."

Immigration: Fixing the guest-worker program - "The debate over a guest-worker program is heating up again in Congress. At issue is the H-2A visa program, which allows agricultural growers to legally hire temporary or seasonal foreign workers. Rooted in the controversial bracero program that recruited thousands of Mexicans to work on U.S. farms during the 1940s and '50s, it was overhauled in 1986 to protect field workers against wage and housing abuses.

Growers say the current H-2A program is tooexpensive and cumbersome, requiring them to file multiple applications with state and federal labor officials to help meet their needs for legal labor. They are asked to predict months or even a year in advance how many workers they will need, even though crop yields? and harvest times can vary from season to season. They also must demonstrate that they tried to hire U.S. workers by posting online ads before they can apply for the visas.

Now growers are asking Congress to roll back changes made to the program last year by the Obama administration. They say the new rules, including an increase in the average pay of field workers and a requirement that government officials inspect worker housing, have made the program impractical and left them with little choice but to hire illegal workers or watch their crops rot."

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