AN OPINION PIECE BY PAT_S
Liberals have a remarkable idiosyncrasy when it comes to undocumented workers,particularly those working in agriculture. In debating immigration policy they are rhapsodic about these workers as being essential, the backbone of our economy. “Undocumented” is the preferred term, “illegal” being derogatory. Let’s admit it, the truly accurate term is “exploited”. Therein lies the peculiarity. Liberals traditionally side with labor seeing oppressor and oppressed, but when it comes to immigrant labor, they see only angels. The self-righteous champions of labor praise the desperate who come to this country to work long days in the hot sun for meager wages as though living the wretched poverty of their lives is a generous act of love for the benefit of us.
I believe it is true that farm employers have a difficult time finding Americans to do these jobs. In some cases you’d have to go to hell to find a worse job.
While not always making headlines, reports of injustice and abuse against farm workers abound including those of opportunistic crew leaders, substandard housing, violence against farm workers […], exclusion from labor laws, inadequate housing, pesticide violations, and the inferior education of children of farm workers. Out of fear of displacement and deportation, farm workers often remain unable to protest inadequate conditions or report employer’s violation of labor, health or safety laws to state authorities. Furthermore, despite their overwhelming representation and contribution to the agricultural community, farm workers lack political leverage, therefore remaining a disenfranchised population..
It may come as a surprise that there is already a legal avenue for migrant agricultural workers to come here. It is through the H-2A visa program. Employers are required to provide transportation to and from the home country, decent housing, medical care, and pay within specified wage guidelines.
At least half of all agricultural workers are undocumented. Only 10% are here on an H-2A visa. Critics say that despite what the law requires, H-2A workers are virtual slaves. They are recruited by third party labor contractors who charge huge “paperwork” fees. These fees are often financed by high interest loans making the workers virtually indentured servants. If employers renege on the terms of the contract, there is little recourse for the worker.
That is not to say abuse is the standard practice of farm employers. Still, it is only human that there will be some exploitation given the weak status of those workers whether here on a visa or totally undocumented. If there are abuses for workers here legally then surely there are for those here illegally.
Perhaps consciences are soothed by supporting such things as DREAMER legislation. A devilish deal. Let us suck the life out of you in exchange for sending your children to college. Can we still call that cheap labor?
In recent years the number of H-2A workers has been increasing, but the government has been slow in handling the applications.For example, the Labor Department which issues the visas insists on using snail mail instead of email. Farming is on a timetable that can’t be delayed.
Why not reform and strengthen the H-2A visa program?
Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA) introduced legislation, the Better Agriculture Resources Now (BARN) Act, H.R. 641, to improve the H-2A visa system.
WASHINGTON, DC—Today, U.S. Representative Rick Allen (R-Ga.-12) reintroduced the Better Agriculture Resources Now (BARN) Act, H.R. 641. This legislation works to reform and strengthen the H-2A visa program, a program which allows agriculture [sic] employers to hire non-immigrant workers for temporary labor. However, this process has been frequently caught up in red tape, stalling, or in some cases, preventing employers from applying for and hiring H-2A workers. The BARN Act increases the efficiency of the H-2A visa program to help farmers in Georgia and across America.
“Many farmers in Georgia and across the country rely on the H-2A visa program for not only their livelihood but to ensure food security in America. Currently, the H-2A program is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor, which has resulted in needless delay and neglect of the program. The DOL does not understand the urgency in which crops must be planted or harvested—or the consequences that could result from a lack of timeliness. This is exactly why I introduced the BARN Act again this Congress. My legislation transfers responsibility of H-2A certification to the Department of Agriculture—which is better suited to meet the needs of farmers and their time-sensitive operations.
Additionally, the BARN Act works to streamline the H-2A process and reforms specific parts of the program that have failed farmers to better serve the agriculture industry as a whole. President Trump has indicated that he wants to make immigration reform a cornerstone of his presidency, and I am hopeful that together we can lead the charge to make these much-needed changes to support our farmers.”
This legislation was brought up unsuccessfully in prior sessions of Congress. The Obama Administration showed little interest in utilizing the H-2A program or protecting visa-holding laborers.
By its own admission, the Labor Department very frequently finds problems with guest workers’ labor conditions. In the 2014 fiscal year, it identified violations in 82% of the H-2 visa cases it investigated. Yet federal records show that the department bans — or to use its term, debars — very few companies, and in at least one year didn’t debar a single one in the entire country.
Perhaps the Trump Administration with a new perspective on the conflicting interests of immigration enforcement and agricultural labor needs will look to the H-2A visa program as a step towards a solution. Border security is still essential or the undocumented will still be encouraged.
Finally, if we expect migrant farm workers to follow the law then so must we. There must be strict enforcement protecting the visa-holders rights to decent treatment. These desperate people should not be exploited by farm employers for economic purposes or by phony endearment for political purposes.