Washington, DC – Farmworker Justice opposes amendments to the appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security (H.R. 240) that seek to prevent the Administration from implementing President Obama’s immigration executive actions, which are urgently needed to protect immigrant families, youth, and others.
“The DACA and DAPA programs are sensible efforts to address the broken immigration system that is harming immigrants, employers, and the nation. They are a modest step in the right direction and should not be obstructed,” said Bruce Goldstein, President of Farmworker Justice. Among agricultural workers, the people who labor in dangerous, low-paid jobs on our farms and ranches, a majority are undocumented. Many of these undocumented farmworkers live in fear of detection, job loss and deportation, and are vulnerable to abuse.
The President’s deferred action programs will allow eligible residents who lack authorized immigration status to come forward, submit to background checks and properly document themselves with the federal government and in their workplaces. Those undocumented immigrants who qualify will obtain a temporary relief from deportation and temporary work authorization. “With protection against the constant fear of deportation, farmworkers and other aspiring Americans will be able to contribute more fully to their communities and will be empowered in their workplaces,” said Goldstein.
The President’s actions are a proper exercise of his authority to enforce immigration laws. “Congressional efforts to prevent the Administration from taking these modest steps should be rejected not only because the President possesses the authority, but also because the Administration’s efforts are sensible and humanitarian as well as economically beneficial to our nation and food system,” said Goldstein.
We commend President Obama’s action to address our broken immigration system. The President took action because Congress has refused to address the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform. In 2013, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill that included a carefully negotiated compromise regarding agricultural workers and employers. Unfortunately, the House failed to act. These proposed amendments move in the fundamentally wrong direction.
Learn how Farmworker Justice helps farmworkers improve their living and working conditions. Highlights include:
- Immigration Reform Update: Deferred Deportation and Farmworkers
- Victory for Farmworkers: Remedying Systematic Labor Abuses Confronted by Farmworkers
- The Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment 2.0: Connecting Farmworkers to Health Insurance
- Keeping Up the Pressure to Protect Farmworkers from Pesticides
Washington, DC – Farmworker Justice applauds President Obama for taking action to address our broken immigration system. Farmworker Justice has been helping farmworker organizations advocate for a more just immigration system because immigration policy has profound impacts on farmworkers, their families and their communities. The President’s administrative relief for certain undocumented immigrants will help several hundred thousand farmworker families. It also represents a step toward desperately-needed, comprehensive reform of our immigration system that Congress should enact.
“We commend President Obama for providing temporary protection against deportation and work authorization for undocumented immigrants who have strong ties to our communities. Several hundred thousand farmworkers who labor on our farms and ranches could be eligible for this administrative relief. It is sensible and within the President’s authority. With protection against the constant fear of deportation, farmworkers and other aspiring Americans will be able to contribute more fully to their communities and will be empowered in their workplaces.
“Even as we celebrate with those who will be eligible for relief, we are disappointed at the limits of the program. The eligibility criteria will deny administrative relief to many deserving farmworkers and their family members, including many long-time farmworkers who do not have U.S. citizen children.” said Bruce Goldstein, President of Farmworker Justice.
Goldstein concluded: “Immigrant farmworkers and other aspiring Americans deserve to be treated with respect and should be given the opportunity to earn immigration status and citizenship. Demands by some employer groups for exploitative guestworker programs should be rejected. Congress should pass immigration legislation that remains true to our history as a nation of immigrants.”
Extended DACA Applications will be Accepted Starting February 18th
The big news in immigration this week was that USCIS announced that it will begin accepting expanded DACA applications on February 18th. Under the expanded DACA guidelines, there will no longer be an upper age limit for applicants who otherwise qualify (currently applicants must have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012). Additionally, individuals will have to show that they have lived in the US since January 1, 2010 (instead of the current requirement of June 15, 2007). The current DACA program is still open for applications and renewals and is now giving deferred action and work authorization for three years instead of two. DACA applicants will still have to meet the other requirements of DACA, including the education requirement and the requirement that applicants entered prior to the age of 16. Note that a new DACA application will be released as well and USCIS may discontinue the current form. Applicants should check the USCIS website for the new form and any new instructions or FAQs. Farmworker Justice will also circulate these materials as they become available.
Also this week, the Associated Press (AP) obtained internal training materials on the implementation of Obama’s deferred action programs for immigration agents working for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). The training materials instruct the agents to review files of detained immigrants and release those who are likely to qualify for deferred action. The agents are further instructed to ask undocumented immigrants that they encounter whether they may qualify for the deferred action programs. The goal of the new enforcement priorities is to focus on serious criminal offenders and recent entrants to the US.
Last week, the House Committee on Homeland Security marked up the “Secure Our Borders First Act,” HR 399, authored by the Chair of the Committee on Homeland Security Michael McCaul (R-TX). HR 399 would require “complete operational control” of the Southwestern border, defined as complete eradication of illegal border crossings. Failure to meet the goal would result in penalties against DHS officials. It is highly questionable whether this standard can ever be met. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill would cost $4.2 billion in increased spending over the next five years and Secretary Johnson called the bill “extreme to the point of being unworkable.” Immigrants’ rights organizations have also harshly criticized the bill. The House was scheduled to vote on HR 399 this week, but leadership changed its mind citing low attendance due to the snow storm. Media reports also indicated that there is a significant conservative opposition to the bill by those who think that it doesn’t go far enough or fear that it is a first step in a plan for broader immigration reform measures.
Meanwhile, the issue of funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) remains unresolved. On Tuesday, the Senate Democratic Caucus sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stating that they would not vote for a Homeland Security spending bill that contains language that would limit the President’s executive action on immigration or other controversial riders. The letter is significant because McConnell needs at least 6 Democrats to get any bill through the Senate.
The House-passed DHS appropriations bill would prevent the President from implementing the executive actions, including DACA and DAPA. President Obama promised to veto any bill that would affect the executive actions. Even if the Senate passes a clean funding bill with no provisions related to executive action, then the House may not take it up. The Department of Homeland Security’s funding is set to expire on February 27th unless a funding bill is passed. If the deadline passes, the Department of Homeland Security would “shut down.” While emergency personnel (a large portion of the agency) would be required to work, they would not receive pay until a funding bill is signed into law.
Both the Senate and the House could likely pass a clean funding bill with Democratic support, but that could lead to a backlash by the right wing of the Republican Party against their leadership, particularly in the House where many members are committed to blocking the deferred action programs. House Speaker John Boehner announced that he will sue Obama in an effort to prevent him from implementing the deferred action programs. The action was called an effort to appease conservatives in the event a clean Homeland Security bill is forced through the House.
Farmworker Justice continues to work on the implementation of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Please share with us any stories or questions you are facing in your communities to help us better advocate for a program that is inclusive of farmworkers. We will be participating in the Ready America: Implementing Immigration Action conference in February. The conference’s goal is to help organizations prepare for implementation of DAPA and DACA. For information on registering, visit www.adminrelief.org/readyamerica/.
On November 20th, 2014 President Obama announced his plans for executive action on immigration. We applaud the President’s action, which includes a deferred action program that provides relief from deportation and work authorization for millions of undocumented individuals, including hundreds of thousands of farmworkers and their family members.
Immigration is a critically important issue for farmworkers. Learn about current legislation proposals impacting farmworkers.
Learn about the history of guestworker programs, H-2A program for temporary agricultural work, and the H-2B visa program.