Farmworker Justice Immigration Update 12/22/16

National Day of Action to Protect Immigrants & Refugees
January 14, 2017 will be a day of nationwide mass mobilization to protect immigrants and refugees. The day of action, which is already being planned in over 20 states and is rapidly growing, is intended to celebrate the nation’s immigrant heritage and defend against hateful attacks and policies. Scheduled events include rallies, marches, vigils and community gatherings to discuss topics such as deportation defense and establishing safe sanctuaries. To find an event near you visit:

U.N. Special Rapporteur in Trafficking in Persons Concerned about H-2A Program
The U.N. Special Rapporteur in Trafficking in Persons recently concluded a visit to the U.S. At the end of her visit, she released a statement identifying key concerns, including concerns about the vulnerability of agricultural guestworkers under the H-2A foreign worker program, as well as ongoing abuses. She called on the U.S. to improve the way the program operates and do more to stop abuses. You can read FJ’s summary of the statement, media coverage here, and the full statement here.

GAO Reports Budgetary Challenges at Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC)
This month, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled: “Declining Resources: Selected Agencies Took Steps to Minimize Effects on Mission but Opportunities Exist for Additional Action”. The OFLC, which is charged with reviewing employer applications for the H-2A guestworker program, was one of the agencies studied in the report. The report states that though application volumes were 84% higher in 2015 than in 2010, the amounts appropriated to the agency during this period to process applications decreased by roughly 9%. Given the limited resources available to hire additional permanent staff, the agency reported using temporary seasonal contract staff to help address the application increase. The agency is also requesting an additional $20 million in funding for 2017 and 2018 to process H-2A and H-2B labor certifications, but the agency’s budgetary future remains uncertain. FJ is concerned that these financial constraints and related reductions in staffing could affect the quality and depth of review of employer applications by the OFLC, as the agency tries to process an increasing volume of applications with diminishing resources.

FJ Highlights Ongoing Concerns for Farmworkers in Trump Administration
Amidst continued uncertainty regarding the next administration’s policies on immigration, FJ is closely monitoring developments in the Trump transition. Trump’s team includes anti-immigrant nativists who condemn immigrants and immigration and claim that they want to protect U.S. workers from competition for jobs, including through guestworker programs. On the other hand are business owners and other pro-employer Republicans who are generally supportive of easier access – meaning fewer labor protections and less government oversight -- to temporary foreign workers. Some employer groups are calling for a legalization for current undocumented immigrants. Some of these tensions will play out during upcoming Senate confirmation hearings.

We track negative impacts of Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, which has led to fear among immigrants and hate crimes, causing undocumented workers to be pushed further into the margins of society. In addition to providing policy analysis to farmworker organizations, we are collaborating with other groups to educate farmworker families about their rights and policy developments.

We continue to educate decision-makers and the public, including through media coverage and social media. It is important to bring forward farmworkers’ voices and accurate information about the immigration system and about the H-2A agricultural guestworker program.
Farmworkers need our help and we hope we can count on you for your support for our policy analysis, advocacy, legal assistance, coalition-building, and other efforts to defend immigrants and farmworkers and advance affirmative initiatives.

In the spirit of giving during this holiday season, and recognizing the serious risks farmworkers face from the incoming Administration and Congress, we ask that you consider donating to Farmworker Justice. You may send a check to our office or donate here.

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the New Year!