Farmworker Justice Immigration Update: 04/18/17

Rep. Duffy Bill Would Expand H-2A to Year-Round Dairy Jobs

On April 12, 2017, Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI) introduced the “Defending the Agricultural Industry’s Requirements Year-round Act of 2017” (the DAIRY Act), HR 2087. This bill would significantly expand the H-2A program by including year-round dairy workers. The bill would allow employers to arrange temporary work visas for renewable periods of 18 months. It does not provide a path to immigration status for the year-round workers, only a perpetual guestworker status. Nor does it provide for visas for family members. Further, the bill does not contain an opportunity for immigration status (or guestworker status) for current undocumented immigrants employed on dairy farms. In addition to these shortcomings, the proposed changes would deprive U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents of job opportunities and lower dairy workers’ already poor wages. For more information, see Farmworker Justice’s bulletin on the DAIRY Act.

Immigration Opponents Take on Active Role in Trump Administration

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has said that he wants the Department of Justice to take a more active role in immigration enforcement, visited the U.S.-Mexico border at Nogales, AZ, on April 11, 2017, where he delivered remarks once again characterizing immigrants as a threat to the nation. That same day, the Office of the Attorney General published a memorandum for all federal prosecutors calling for the prioritization of various immigration offenses including improper entry and re-entry into the U.S. Read the full memorandum here, as well as the NILC Immigrant Justice Fund’s statement on it.

The Trump Administration also recently announced the hiring of two hard-line immigration-restrictionists to key posts. Jon Feere, a former legal policy analyst for the Center for Immigration Studies, or CIS, was hired as an adviser to Thomas D. Homan, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), while Julie Kirchner, the former executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, has been hired as an adviser to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. Both CIS and FAIR are anti-immigrant organizations that advocate restricting legal and illegal immigration. Their founder openly embraced eugenics, and the organizations have been listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Immigration Enforcement Continues to Increase, including Targeting of Non-Criminals

ICE’s arrests of non-criminals have already more than doubled under President Trump compared to arrests during the Obama Administration. In addition, the presence of immigration agents at state and local courthouses has increased. This has in turn led to a sharp drop in crime reporting from Latino communities throughout the U.S., which is deeply troubling to both immigration advocates and prosecutors tasked with investigating crime. Some of the ICE field offices with the biggest spikes in immigration arrests, particularly of non-criminals, include New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas and Houston. As another example of the real-life impact of this trend, Woodburn, Oregon, where many farmworkers live, was recently described as being turned into a “ghost town” due to undocumented immigrants’ fear of immigration enforcement. Immigrants are being assisted by Oregon’s farmworker union, PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste), led by Ramon Ramirez, who is on the Board of Directors of Farmworker Justice.