Farmworker Justice Immigration Update 2/26/16

National Hispanic Leadership Agenda Issues Quadrennial Hispanic Public Policy Agenda

Immigration policy is among the issues discussed in the report, subtitled “Blueprint for Advancing the Latino Community,” by the 40-organization coalition. Farmworker Justice is on the Board of Directors of the NHLA. The report covers a range of issues, including economic empowerment and labor, health, education, civil rights, environment and energy and government accountability. It is intended to inform elected and appointed government officials, candidates for office, think tanks, advocacy groups and many others.

The Supreme Court and Executive Action on Immigration

As you are probably well aware by now, the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by Chief Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, has turned into a political brawl. The Constitution requires the President to appoint Supreme Court Justice’s “with the advice and consent of the Senate.” Normally, the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on nominees before the whole Senate votes on the nominee. It is not clear when the vacancy will be filled but it is highly unlikely to be filled before the Supreme Court hears US v Texas, the case on the legality of the DAPA and expanded DACA programs.

So what does the vacancy mean for DAPA? If the Federal Government wins US v. Texas, then the case will likely end, and DAPA and expanded DACA would be implemented, most likely in the late summer. If there is a 4-4 tie by the Justices, then the lower court ruling would stand (although the case would not be considered a precedent for other cases in the future). In this case, the 5th Circuit upheld the order temporarily preventing the Obama Administration from implementing DAPA and expanded DACA, so the programs would remain blocked. The case would then go back to the Texas District court and continue. Judge Hanen in the Southern District of Texas is likely to turn the temporary injunction into a permanent injunction (a court order preventing the programs from being implemented) and the Federal Government could appeal the case back up to the Supreme Court if they choose to. By then we would probably have a new president and a new Supreme Court justice. The lawsuit over DAPA and expanded DACA as well as the programs themselves, would only continue if the new President wants to implement the programs (Clinton & Sanders have promised to do so, the other candidates have criticized the programs). Overall, we still remain hopeful that the Federal Government will win at the Supreme Court this spring and President Obama will implement the programs promptly.

Familias Unidas por la Justicia

Ramon Torres, president of Familias Unidas por la Justicia, a farmworker labor union in Washington State was in Washington, DC last week to gain support for their boycott of Driscoll’s berries and deliver a letter to the Department of Labor on behalf of the union’s members. Familias Unidas is a union of farmworkers who are organizing to form a collective bargaining agreement with Sakuma Brothers Farms, a Washington berry grower. In the 2014 growing season, Sakuma Brothers Farms applied for H-2A temporary agricultural workers and Familias Unidas produced 400 hundred letters from domestic workers who planned to return to work for Sakuma Farms that season. Sakuma Farms ultimately withdrew its application. Last year, Familias Unidas delivered members’ promises to work for Sakuma in anticipation of Sakuma applying for H-2A workers and Sakuma Farms said that they would not use the program. This year, Familias Unidas is again prepared to show that there are sufficient domestic workers to serve the needs of Sakuma Farms.

Agricultural employers may only apply for H-2A workers if they can show that there is a labor shortage. Employers may not use the program to break a strike.

Presidential Candidates, Farmworkers and Immigration Policy

Arturo Rodriguez, President of the United Farm Workers, published an op-ed in the Huffington Post entitled, “Questions Farm Workers Have for Bernie Sanders.”

Other H-2A Program News

Reuters investigated the shady foreign labor recruiters who recruit workers to come work in the US in the H-2 programs. The article highlights Nestor Molina, a recruiter who extracted thousands of dollars in illegal fees from Honduran H-2A workers, and has been able to skirt law enforcement and civil suits.

Farmworkers and the Minimum Wage

This op-ed in the Portland Tribune by Ramon Ramirez, president of the farmworkers’ union Proyecto Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN) and a member of Farmworker Justice’s Board of Directors, and Andrea Miller, executive director of Causa Oregon, an immigrant rights organization, titled “My view: the minimum wage is a racial justice issue.” The authors reminded the Oregon Legislature, which was considering legislation to increase the minimum wage, that people of color are more likely than others to make the minimum wage and therefore, live in poverty. They urged the Legislature not to exclude groups of workers, such as farmworkers, that are predominantly comprised of people of color, from an increase in the minimum wage. Last week, the legislature approved the increase, with Gov. Kate Brown’s approval. By 2022, the state’s minimum wage will rise to $14.50/hour in the Portland area, $12.50/hour in rural areas, and $13.25/hour elsewhere.

Beware of High School Diploma Scams

Please see the Federal Trade Commission’ warning page about high school diploma scams. Immigrants who are interested in enrolling in an education program and applying for DACA should be warned against such scams. Note that people who are otherwise-eligible for DACA can enroll in English-language classes or adult education or vocational classes to satisfy the education requirement. Programs that receive federal, state or local government funding or are administered by a nonprofit are likely to be eligible. If you need assistance determining whether an educational program is a scam or are interested in finding out whether an educational program run by a nonprofit could satisfy the DACA education requirement, contact here.