Opportunities and threats, these are the times we live in and farmworkers’ lives are in the balance as policies change rapidly while Congress and the Administration tinker with immigration policies that have real world and devastating impacts for millions of people in our communities.
The opportunity is the Agricultural Worker Program Act, sponsored by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) in the House of Representatives and by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) in the Senate. This bill, known as the Blue Card Bill, would allow adjusted status to farmworkers who meet certain eligibility requirements, and a path to permanent residence status to those farmworkers currently living and working in the U.S. The Blue Card bill would allow farmworkers to maintain economic stability for their families and afford them the ability to participate more fully in our economy, while also allowing growers access to a more stable, more skilled, happier and healthier workforce.
The threat comes from a recent vote by the House Appropriations Committee to expand the H2A visa program for farmworkers to include yearlong work periods, overriding the current program that limits “guestworkers” to nine month work contracts. This expansion of the H2A visa program is being squeezed through by placing it as an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security spending bill, limiting House debate on the bill and making it more difficult for those opposed to vote against it. Guestworker programs often leave farmworkers unprotected. The H2A visa, as with other guestworker programs, has a legacy of abuses against workers who are brought to this country to harvest our nation’s crops. In addition, workers who have been living and working in agriculture for years, if not decades, are displaced by H2A workers, leaving tens of thousands of hardworking men and women without a livelihood and, in some cases, with no place to live. This means displacement, inadequate wages, and inability to integrate into the national economy for the hardworking families in our communities.
The Trump Administration has made it a priority to make immigrants scapegoats of America’s problems, despite their continued contributions to make our economy grow. In a recent article on Politico.com, Eliana Johnson and Josh Dawsey report Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) are working with White House aide Stephen Miller to slash the number of immigrants allowed into the country annually. Met with agricultural concerns for a decrease in the labor pool, the Administration in conjunction with its Mexican counterpart, have taken steps to make guestworker programs more widespread, as was reported in the National Public Radio and Reuters earlier this month..
Farmworkers do the hard work that feeds the rest of us in this country. FWAF stands in opposition to the House of Representatives DHS Spending Bill in the Appropriations Committee and in support of the Agricultural Worker Program Act. We urge all our members, partners, and allies to voice their support for the Blue Card AWPA of 2017 to their elected representatives in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. Thank you for your support.