While the majority of Americans are engrossed with the Democratic dog and pony impeachment show, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), chairman of the House Immigration subcommittee, introduced HR 4916, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, with 46 cosponsors, 22 of which are Republicans.
Like most bills submitted to Congress there is always more than meets the eye. This bill, while claiming to modernize America’s agricultural workforce, actually grants amnesty to anywhere from 1.5 million to 2.1 million illegal aliens working in agriculture through a new status called the Certified Agricultural Worker (CAW) that would shield them from deportation. In addition, the bill expands the H-2A immigration program, adds 40,000 additional green cards to the EB-3 category and mandates E-Verify across the agriculture sector.
For those unfamiliar with the terms, the H-2A program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who anticipate a lack of available domestic workers to bring foreign workers to the U.S. to perform temporary or seasonal agricultural work including, but not limited to, planting, cultivating, or harvesting labor.
The H-2A program has numerous flaws but still allows the agriculture industry an unlimited supply of “guest” workers. One major flaw in this program is the fact that there is little to no sanctions on noncompliant employers which allows Big Agriculture to bypass the law and hire illegals already living in this country.
The 40,000 additional green cards would be for EB-3 skilled, professional or other workers. “Skilled workers” are persons whose job requires a minimum of 2 years training or work experience, not of a temporary or seasonal nature. “Professionals” are persons whose job requires at least a U.S. baccalaureate degree or a foreign equivalent and are a member of the professions. The “other workers” subcategory is for persons performing unskilled labor requiring less than 2 years training or experience, not of a temporary or seasonal nature. Under the EB-3 category spouses and children under the age of 21 are also allowed into the country and are allowed to apply for permanent resident status.
In addition, HR 4916 adds two pilot programs, the first of which allocates 20,000 capped H-2A visas for use year-round, half of which must go to dairy farmers. After 10 years congress can choose to eliminate the cap making it a de facto year-round program. The second provision would allow another 10,000 “portable” H-2A workers available for H-2A businesses.
This bill doesn’t “modernize” anything. It simply grants amnesty, including work permits, green cards and a path to citizenship to illegals who have been unlawfully employed in agriculture at least part-time, a minimum of 180 workdays, during the past two years, and expands the EB-3 program to allow more skilled workers into the country to take jobs from Americans.
The agricultural industry doesn’t need amnesty to fill jobs. Existing programs such as H-2A already allow them to bring in an unlimited number of temporary seasonal workers.