Immigration Reform & Farmworkers
Immigration is a critically important issue for farmworkers. Over one-half of the approximately 2.5 million seasonal workers on U.S. farms and ranches lack authorized immigration status. These farmworkers, like millions of Americans before them, immigrated to the United States to find opportunities and create a better life for their families. Farmworkers, who work extremely hard, often in hazardous conditions and for very low wages, make great contributions to our economy and deserve a common sense path to citizenship.
Undocumented workers’ fear of deportation deprives them of bargaining power with their employers and inhibits them from challenging illegal employment practices. The presence of so many vulnerable farmworkers depresses wages and working conditions for all farmworkers, including U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants. Outside of the workplace, daily life for many undocumented farmworkers and their families is filled with fear about potential deportation and separation from family and loved ones.
Farmworker Justice is committed to immigration reform that empowers farmworkers to improve their inadequate wages and working conditions. Congress should enact legislation that reforms our broken immigration system and creates a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring Americans, including farmworkers and their family members. Immigration reform should be a stepping stone toward modernizing agricultural labor practices and treating farmworkers with the respect they deserve. For today’s and tomorrow’s farmworkers, a roadmap to immigration status and citizenship, combined with strong labor protections and economic freedom, is essential.
Information on immigration reform proposals and legislation may be found below in the section on Legislation and Analysis. For the latest update on immigration reform for farmworkers, read our most recent immigration updates, or sign-up to receive automatic updates.
Immigration Administrative Relief for Farmworkers and other Undocumented Immigrants
► Read Farmworker Justice fact sheet, "President Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration: Positive Step for Hundreds of Thousands of Farmworkers and their Families."
Immigration Administrative Relief Flyer for Farmworkers & Other Undocumented Workers
These flyers are a tool for outreach workers and other advocates to handout to farmworkers and other undocumented workers.
► Farmworker Justice's English outreach flyer "President Obama’s New Deferred Action Program: Important Information for Farmworkers"
► Farmworker Justice's Spanish outreach flyer "El nuevo programa de acción diferida del Presidente Obama: Importante información para los trabajadores agrícolas"
For more information, visit our page on administrative relief for farmworkers and other undocumented workers.
Rep. Allen (R-GA), Better Agricultural Resources Now Act, H.R. 2588
113th United States Congress
The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, S.744: On June 27, 2013, the Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, S. 744, by a bipartisan vote of 68-32. The bill’s passage brings us one step closer to fixing our broken immigration policy and modernizing agricultural labor relations. Farmworker Justice’s statement on the bill’s passage is available here.
S.744 is a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill authored by eight Senators (Senators McCain (R-AZ), Graham (R-SC), Flake (R-AZ), Rubio (R-FL), Schumer (D-NY), Durbin (D-IL), Menendez (D-NJ) and Bennet (D-CO)--coined the “Gang of 8”). The bill contains the agricultural stakeholder agreement that is the result of intense negotiations between agribusiness representatives and the United Farm Workers, led by Senators Feinstein (D-Cal.), Bennet (D-Col.), Rubio (R-Fla.), and Hatch (R-Ut.). S. 744 also includes Subtitle F, Prevention of Trafficking in Persons and Abuses Involving Workers Recruited Abroad, which provides important protections to address abuse in the international recruitment of workers across visa programs. The widespread discrimination, fraud, and recruitment fees during the recruitment process drastically impact the experience of workers during recruitment and once they are in the US.
► For more information on the other provisions of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, read the National Immigration Law Center’s summary.
► Read Farmworker Justice's summary of the agriculture immigration stakeholder agreement in the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013
► United Farm Workers’ letter of support for farmworker provisions
International Labor Recruitment Provisions
► Legislative text: Title III, Subtitle F, Prevention of Trafficking in Persons and Abuses Involving Workers Recruited Abroad
► UFW/Farmworker Justice fact sheet: The Vital Importance of Oversight of the International Labor Recruitment System
► International Labor Recruitment Working Group fact sheet: Senate Bill Improvements to International Labor Recruitment
House of Representatives
Talking points on immigration reform for farmworkers that can be used in meetings with Congressional staff are available here.
The Agricultural Guestworker Act, H.R. 1773, Rep. Goodlatte (R-VA)
On June 19th, the House Judiciary Committee passed Chairman Bob Goodlatte's Agricultural Guestworker Act, HR 1773, by a vote of 20-16 along party lines. Rep. Goodlatte’s “Ag Act” is a one-sided and harsh bill that stands in stark contrast to the balanced stakeholder agreement. The bill would create a massive new agricultural guestworker program, which would deprive U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents of job opportunities, lower farmworkers’ already poor wages, and allow exploitative conditions for hundreds of thousands of new guestworkers. Significantly, Goodlatte’s bill fails to address our broken immigration system and does not offer an opportunity for the current experienced farmworkers who lack authorized immigration status to earn a roadmap to citizenship.
► Farmworker Justice’s Fact Sheet
► Farmworker Justice's Talking Points on H.R. 1733
► Farmworker Justice’s Press Statement
► Legislative Language H.R. 1773
► House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Agricultural Guestworker Act, H.R. 1773
► House Judiciary Committee mark-up of the Agr icultural Guestworker Act, H.R. 1773
► Farmworker Justice's Additional Talking Points on the Treatment of Undocumented Workers in H.R. 1773
► Letter of Opposition to H.R. 1773 signed by 200+ organizations
Rep. Ross ( R-FL), Legal Agricultural Workforce Act, H.R. 242
On January 14, 2013, Rep. Ross introduced the Legal Agricultural Workforce Act, HR 242, which would devastate America’s farmworkers and endanger our nation’s food system. Rep. Ross proposes a massive new guestworker program with no meaningful labor protections. Rep. Ross ignores the lessons of history by eliminating virtually all of the labor protections that have been recognized for decades as necessary to prevent displacement of U.S. workers, depression of U.S. workers’ wage rates, and exploitation of foreign citizens.
Priorities for Immigration Reform: On January 29th, 2013, President Obama gave a speech in Las Vegas, laying out his priorities for immigration reform.
► Farmworker Justice's Statement
► White House Fact Sheet: Fixing our Broken Immigration System so Everyone Plays by the Rules
Immigration Enforcement & Farmworkers
State Immigration Laws
Farmworker Justice tracks harsh anti-immigrant state laws that violate civil liberties and intimidate both documented and undocumented Latino farmworkers. These laws drive hardworking undocumented farmworkers even further underground, making them more vulnerable to workplace abuse and often separating them from their families. Unfortunately, some growers are using the fear and devastation resulting from these laws to try to build support for a harsh new guestworker program. Instead, Congress needs to create a common sense roadmap to citizenship for these aspiring immigrants that respects the contributions they have made to American agriculture and the economy.
Farmworkers & Congress
For more information about AgJOBS, please see the resources below:
The History of AgJOBS & Farmworker Immigration Legislation
► The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act in the 113th Congress (2013-2014)
► AgJOBS in the 112th Congress (2011-2012)
► AgJOBS in the 111th Congress (2009-2010)
► AgJOBS in the 110th Congress (2007-2008)
► AgJOBS in the 109th Congress (2005-2006)
► AgJOBS in the 108th Congress (2003-2004)
Selected Farmworker Statistics Based on NAWS
There are remarkably few data sets about the demographic and economic characteristics of farmworkers – people hired to labor on farms and ranches in the United States. Among the few studies that do exist, many have significant shortcomings. One of the better sources for over 20 years has been the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS), commissioned by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). A random sample of farmworkers is interviewed regarding their families, their jobs, immigration status , and health. There are additional categories that vary between surveys. In the past, the DOL published several helpful reports based on the NAWS data. Unfortunately, DOL has not published a report in many years and until recently it even stopped releasing the data to the public. Farmworker Justice requested and obtained DOL’s release of the public data from the 2011-2012 surveys. The raw data is available at http://www.doleta.gov/agworker/naws.cfm.
Our staff examined the survey data to provide a basic economic and demographic portrait of farmworkers, including data related to some of the specific policy issues in which we work. We have not conducted a complete analysis of all the data. This memorandum summarizes some of the major findings drawn from the NAWS to help inform the public, policymakers, and organizations that serve farmworkers.