Farmworker Justice Update - 01/25/18

Farmworker Justice Update: 01/25/18


Congress Passes another Short-Term Funding Bill without Relief for Dreamers  

On January 22, Congress passed another short-term funding bill, ending a government shutdown that began when the previous short-term spending bill expired on January 19. The current bill will expire on February 8 and does not include any relief for Dreamers. Although there is bipartisan agreement that a DACA solution is needed, recent immigration negotiations have expanded to include issues well beyond DACA. It is unclear if or when a bi-partisan compromise may be reached.  The White House announced yesterday that it would be unveiling its own immigration “legislative framework” on Monday. In the meantime, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is receiving DACA renewal applications, in compliance with a court order issued earlier this month, which the Department of Justice has appealed.  


Anti-Immigrant Republicans Calling for Vote on Goodlatte Immigration Bill
As mentioned in our previous update, Rep. Bob Goodlatte recently introduced a hard-line immigration bill, the Securing America’s Future Act (H.R. 4760), which includes his Agricultural Guestworker Act (AGA), among many other anti-immigrant and anti-worker provisions. Amidst continued discussions regarding immigration, members of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus are calling for a vote on Rep. Goodlatte’s bill. However, many Democrats, as well as some moderate Republicans, have stated that they will not support the bill, so it may not pass out of the House of Representatives. Additionally, it is very unlikely to pass in the Senate. Some agricultural employer associations who initially supported the AGA have also expressed opposition to the Securing America’s Future Act and note that the AGA “fails to provide adequate assurances for [their] current and future workforce needs.”  Farmworker Justice will continue to monitor and strongly oppose Rep. Goodlatte’s bill.


Haitians Ineligible for H-2 Guestworker Visas
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced that it will no longer accept H-2A and H-2B workers from Haiti, citing “extremely high rates of refusal,” “high levels of fraud and abuse” and “a high rate of overstaying the terms of their H–2 admission.” The H-2A program’s fundamental flaws, including restricting guestworkers to one employer and widespread abuses of workers, contribute to guestworkers leaving their jobs without authorization to find other employment. This decision inappropriately excludes an entire nation’s citizens for the alleged conduct of a few individuals without addressing the H-2A program’s flaws and abusive treatment of workers. Some view the decision as another blow to the Haitian community following the Administration’s decision to rescind Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti last year, as well as a string of racially-charged comments against Haitians allegedly made by President Trump. On January 24, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit  challenging the Administration’s rescission of TPS for Haitians.  


Leading Farmworker Organizations and Advocates in the U.S. and Mexico File Challenge under NAFTA Labor Side Agreement for U.S. Government Denial of Equal Rights to H-2A Agricultural Guestworkers

Today, Farmworker Justice, FLOC, PCUN, UFW and ProDESC are filing a petition challenging the discriminatory exclusion of H-2A agricultural guestworkers from protections in the principal federal employment law for migrant farmworkers (the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act). The petition calls on the US, Mexico and Canada to remedy this violation of the NAFTA labor side agreement. You can find more details about the petition here.


New York Supreme Court Dismisses Lawsuit Seeking Farmworkers’ Right to Organize
A New York state court recently dismissed a lawsuit seeking to protect farmworkers’ rights to unionize. The lawsuit, brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), the Workers’ Center of Central New York, and the Worker Justice Center of New York, challenged an 80-year old state law that excludes farmworkers from basic labor protections. Although the state of New York declined to defend the case, the Farm Bureau intervened against the worker advocates, who plan to appeal the ruling.  


Update on Farmworker Health and Safety


Immigration Policies Impacting Access to Health Care Services
A recent Associated Press article published in many news outlets, including the Washington Post, details how immigration policies are impacting access to health care services. The article describes what many of us have already seen or heard in our own communities - fewer Latinos are enrolling in health insurance, and often are forgoing care altogether due to fear of immigration enforcement. It is important to reiterate that information provided in health insurance applications is not shared with ICE and will not be used for immigration enforcement purposes.


CHIP Funding Extended by Latest Spending Bill, but Health Center Funding Still Pending
The short-term spending bill passed by Congress on January 22 included a 6-year funding extension for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP funding had expired on Sept. 30, 2017. Many states were facing depletion of their CHIP funds, potentially cutting health insurance benefits to low-income children and families. However, federally-funded community health centers, whose funding also expired on Sept. 30, have yet to be re-funded. The uncertainty of short-term funding bills has broad repercussions on public health, including exacerbating personnel shortages and hindering long-term research.  


CMS Announces Possible Work Requirements for Medicaid

Earlier this month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that states could impose a work requirement on Medicaid beneficiaries. A handful of states, including North Carolina, Maine, Arizona and Kentucky, applied to CMS for approval to implement a work requirement. In these states, able-bodied adults will be required to work a certain number of hours per week or be engaged in volunteer, job training, or other activities (including school) to be eligible for Medicaid. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has more information about the Medicaid work requirement and its potentially harmful effect on low-income individuals and families.


New York to Continue Medicaid Coverage for DACA Recipients

On January 23, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will continue to provide Medicaid coverage to DACA recipients who lose their status. New York currently has 42,000 DACA recipients. Information on applying for or renewing Medicaid coverage for DACA recipients is available here.