FJ Blog

Monday, 30 January 2017

Farmworker Justice condemns the Executive Order issued by President Trump on Friday.  President Trump’s Executive Order bars entry of refugees from Syria and imposes a suspension of admission to the U.S. of citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries. This order contradicts the very essence and history of our country—valuing the contributions of immigrants and providing a safe space for refugees from around the world. We call on the President to withdraw the Executive Order and on Congress to take immediate action to reverse the Executive Order.  

The President should withdraw the Executive Order because it violates the Constitution and existing immigration law.  Grave harm has already been done to thousands of innocent individuals who have followed our immigration laws and been approved to enter the United States.  The Executive Order damages the reputation of the United States as a nation of liberty and justice for all, including people of different religions, races, ethnicities and national origins.  While supposedly designed to protect the nation, the title and purported purpose of the Order misrepresent its aims and its consequences.

We are pleased that people all over the country have demonstrated their opposition through rallies at airports and cities.  We want to acknowledge the work of several federal judges who have already recognized the likelihood that the Order is invalid and have temporarily halted enforcement of aspects of the Executive Order, but that is not enough.

The Executive Order is just one component of an attack on immigrants and immigration, blaming people who have contributed to our country’s greatness for the ills arising from other causes. Last week’s Executive Orders also open the doors to massive and inhumane immigration enforcement and a senseless and costly border wall.

More than 80% of the people who labor on our farms and ranches are immigrants.  Most farmworkers have been here many years and deserve our thanks for working so hard at such low wages to produce our food.  Because our immigration system has not been reformed, a majority of farmworkers lack authorized immigration status.  They and others deserve an opportunity to earn immigration status with a path to citizenship.  Our nation also must continue to offer safe haven to immigrants and refugees from around the world.

There is no doubt that this country – including its agricultural sector -- needs immigration policy reform, but not the kind that President Trump has launched.

by Jessica Felix-Romero
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Thursday, 26 January 2017

President Trump may issue an Executive Order related to immigration and labor issues that could have significant effects on the nation’s farmworkers and their employers in agriculture.  Vox circulated a leaked draft of an “Executive Order on Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs.”  If signed, it could result in major changes in the H-2A agricultural guestworker program, but those changes are not specified.  Farmworker Justice seeks improvements in the wages, working conditions, and enforcement under the H-2A program to protect U.S. and foreign workers.

The leaked draft Executive Order calls on the Secretaries of Homeland Security, Labor and State to engage in studies and identify new policies, as needed, regarding temporary foreign worker visa programs, often referred to as guestworker programs. The draft would also require the Secretary of Homeland Security in consultation with the Secretaries of State and Labor to propose “a regulation (or make changes to policy or operations, as appropriate) to restore the integrity of employment-based nonimmigrant worker programs and better protect U.S. and foreign workers affected by those programs.”  Despite this call to protect workers, the order raises troubling questions.:  It would order DHS within 90 days of the order to “submit to the President a list of options for ensuring the efficient processing of petitions for the H-2A nonimmigrant agricultural visa program, while maintaining programmatic integrity.”  Efficient processing of the H-2A program is important but not at the expense of workers; this language is typically used by agribusiness to refer to their interest in  stripping away worker protections and DOL oversight. Although the draft is couched in terms of protecting workers, there is cause for concern. Historically, Republican Administrations have sought to lower wages and remove labor protections for both U.S. and foreign workers under the H-2A program at the behest of agricultural employers.  President Trump promised to cut 75% of all federal regulations. Moreover, he has an interest in facilitating employer access to guestworkers, creating a tension with pro-US worker rhetoric.

The H-2A program has grown recently to 165,000 approved jobs and is expected to continue to grow.  In 2016, over 95% of applications were certified and in a timely manner.  The H-2A program  allows agricultural employers to hire foreign workers on temporary work visas if they recruit inside the United States with certain minimum wages and working conditions and cannot attract sufficient U.S. workers. The Trump vineyard in Virginia has used H-2A guestworkers.  

Farmworker Justice will press the Administration to better protect U.S. and foreign workers under the H-2A program. Farmworkers’ wages and working conditions need to be improved, not worsened.  In addition, there are widespread violations of the rights of both U.S. and foreign workers under the H-2A program that need to be addressed.

This draft Executive Order does not address the reality that a majority of the 2.5 million farmworkers in the U.S. – the experienced workers on our farms and ranches -- are undocumented immigrants. Instead, the President demonizes undocumented workers and promises mass deportations.  Undocumented farmworkers and their family members should be offered the opportunity for immigration status and a path to citizenship.

by Jessica Felix-Romero
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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

“President Trump signed two executive orders today that threaten some of our country’s most essential values, including diversity and the right to due process, and will inflict great harm on innocent people,” said Bruce Goldstein, President of Farmworker Justice, a national advocacy organization for farmworkers. These include provisions calling for the construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and increased detention and prosecution of immigrants, as well as a renewed attack on cities that choose to protect immigrants, referred to as “sanctuary jurisdictions.” Further anticipated actions may include an order banning refugees from certain Muslim countries.

These actions represent a campaign to blame innocent immigrants for problems they did not cause.  While calling for budget cuts, President Trump intends to spend billions of dollars without valid reason.  These measures also will likely lead to an increase in civil rights violations by immigration and law enforcement officials, and subject many immigrants to verbal and physical abuse by individuals who feel empowered to act on their xenophobia and racism.  

President Trump’s harsh rhetoric and actions regarding immigrants are instilling fear in many farmworkers and their families.  The large majority of the people who harvest our fruits and vegetables and tend our livestock are immigrants, and many are undocumented workers.  Most farmworkers have held these low-paid, difficult jobs for many years. Many have children.  They help agricultural business owners prosper. 

“We will continue to help farmworkers fight for immigration reform that brings greater justice to the fields and farmworker communities and ensures a prosperous, productive agricultural sector for all,” said Goldstein.

by Jessica Felix-Romero
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