Immigration and Labor Rights

Farmworker Justice Immigration Update 3/9/17

Implementation of Immigration Orders Likely to Impact Farmworker Communities

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released a series of memos, fact sheets and FAQs detailing its plans for implementing the new immigration orders signed by President Trump on January 25th, which focused on immigration enforcement both at the border and in the interior of the country. Perhaps the most significant feature of the orders is a change in immigration enforcement priorities. In its guidance materials, DHS confirms the broad scope of the new enforcement priorities, stating that it will not exempt any classes or categories of people from potential enforcement and that all of those in violation of immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and removal. The guidance also states that DHS will not target DACA recipients or deviate from its established procedure for avoiding “sensitive locations” such as schools and hospitals, but it is still unclear whether these policies are being adhered to.

The effect of these orders and their implementation is the criminalization of immigration and increased uncertainty even for those who have been in this country for years, have U.S. citizen children who have grown up here, and have no criminal records. In Oregon, ICE has detained multiple workers, many of whom do not have criminal records, including one nursery worker who has several U.S. citizen children and has lived in the United States for about 15 years.  As stated by Farmworker Justice’s Bruce Goldstein in a recent Modern Farmer article: “These people work really hard at low-wage jobs to feed the country. To be vilified this way is causing them great harm.”

Trump’s immigration policies could also have a chilling effect on workplace complaints. As stated by Farmworker Justice’s Adrienne DerVartanian in a recent Bloomberg BNA article, agriculture, where a large portion of the workforce is undocumented, is an industry in which “violations of rights are rampant” and “the current environment, with a real focus on immigration enforcement and raids, has created an increase in the level of fear and concerns.”

Farmworkers are not the only ones concerned about the prospect of increased enforcement. Growers and other agricultural employers are worried about the possible impacts of increased immigration enforcement on the availability of workers. This concern has been voiced by employers across different geographical regions and agricultural industries around the country, including blueberries in New Jersey (as an aside, as mentioned in this article, White House adviser KellyAnne Conway grew up in southern New Jersey, worked as a blueberry picker during summer breaks from school and was crowned New Jersey Blueberry Princess in 1982 - but the blueberry industry, along with others in agriculture, is facing a crisis due to Trump's immigration policies and deportations), tomatoes in Michigan, apples in Maine, and dairy in New York, just to cite some examples. Unfortunately, even as many farmers express concern for their current workforce and want a way for those workers to adjust status, many are also calling for limiting protections and government oversight in the H-2A program. Some growers are emphasizing their political connections and hoping these will work to their benefit.

In this difficult political context, Farmworker Justice will keep fighting to ensure that farmworkers’ labor and human rights are respected while highlighting the need for progressive, sensible immigration reform that respects farmworkers.  Some of you may have heard or read Trump’s recent comments that he is open to immigration reform.  It is not clear what such proposed reform would entail, nor how it would move forward given the deep damage and lack of trust among immigrants and their supporters.  Nonetheless, it is obviously an issue we will be following closely.

Confirmation Process for Key Cabinet Positions in Trump Administration Continues   

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has re-scheduled Alexander Acosta’s confirmation hearing for Secretary of Labor for March 22nd (it had originally been scheduled for March 15th). Acosta was the Trump Administration’s second choice for the post, after Andrew Puzder withdrew from consideration amidst controversy about his company’s labor practices, unpaid taxes for an undocumented domestic employee and past allegations of domestic violence.

Acosta is currently the Dean of Florida International University’s law school and has previously been through confirmation hearings for various government posts; having served on the National Labor Relations Board, the civil-rights division of the Justice Department and as a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida during the George W. Bush administration.

Farmworker Justice has signed on to a letter with many other national organizations calling for a thorough review of Mr. Acosta’s record. We hope that the upcoming confirmation hearing will serve to provide further information about Acosta’s views on both labor and immigration, particularly on issues that affect farmworkers such as enforcing the minimum wage and other wage-hour laws, administering the H-2A agricultural guestworker program, and setting occupational safety standards. 

Now that Acosta’s confirmation hearing has been set, only one Cabinet-level hearing remains to be scheduled – that of Agriculture Secretary nominee Sonny Perdue. Perdue’s views on immigration are concerning--as Georgia governor, Perdue signed into law the state’s harsh anti-immigrant bill in 2006.  The delay in Perdue’s confirmation has frustrated some farm-state lawmakers who view it as a sign that the Trump Administration is not prioritizing rural America. The Senate Agriculture Committee had been waiting for weeks for the necessary paperwork to move forward with the nomination, including ethics forms and an FBI background check. The Committee finally received some documents this past Friday, March 10th. Perdue owns several agriculture-related businesses which may give rise to conflicts of interest and was fined for various ethics violations during his time as governor of Georgia.


Department of Homeland Security’s guidance for Executive Order could impact farmworkers

The Department of Homeland Security’s guidance implementing President Trump’s executive orders on immigration enforcement sets the stage for increasing the number of deportations, which already had reached record levels, and for expanding the people targeted for deportation.  A majority of the nation’s 2.5 million farmworkers employed on farms and ranches are undocumented immigrants. This guidance will cause more of them to be swept up in immigration raids.  “For more than 20 years, with a wink and a nod, we have allowed agricultural employers to hire unauthorized immigrants to harvest our crops and work in our dairies.  Farmworkers did not create the broken immigration system.  Mass deportations of farmworkers would be cruel and economically harmful,” said Bruce Goldstein, President of Farmworker Justice.  Farmworker Justice advocates for an opportunity for undocumented farmworkers and their family members to earn immigration status and citizenship.

Farmworker Justice Immigration Update 2/17/17

Immigration Raids Instilling Fear; Preparedness and Rapid Response Efforts Expanding

Immigration raids are taking place across the country following new immigration enforcement priorities laid out by the Trump Administration in one of a string of proposed and signed Executive Orders targeting immigrants.  Farmworkers and other immigrant communities are facing fear and uncertainty as they confront a heightened risk of encountering immigration enforcement actions.   

Farmworker Justice condemns these raids as senseless and heartless; they are causing needless fear and stress in farmworker and other immigrant communities.  Farmworker Justice, along with many other organizations, is working to ensure that farmworkers and others are receiving information about their rights in the event of immigration law enforcement.  Farmworker Justice, SPLC, and the United Farm Workers Foundation participated in a webinar this week through CIRI and IAN, a recording of which will soon be available on IAN’s website.  There are multiple sources for information about immigrant rights and Know Your Rights training available online.  Many resources are available on NILC’s webpage, including a “know your rights” card as well as materials explaining basic rights.

This is an extremely difficult time for many immigrant communities and we urge you to think about creating preparedness plans and rapid response networks in your communities, if you are not already doing so.  Some of the many difficult questions and considerations facing mixed status immigrant families include ensuring that their children will be taken care of in the event the parents or caretakers are detained or deported.  Parents must make arrangements for the necessary paperwork to ensure a responsible individual will assume care and custody for their children and know how to ensure children are able to join their parents if they are deported and choose to be reunited in their country of origin.  Fortunately, many groups are addressing these questions and are working to create family preparedness plans, including this one from ILRC.  Please contact us for additional information and resources in your community.

Agricultural Businesses Identify Serious Risks from Immigration Enforcement

Agribusiness is also feeling the heat of the increased immigration enforcement.  A growing chorus of growers, despite their broad support for then candidate Trump, is concerned about the future outlook of their workforce and their operations.  Farmworker Justice President Bruce Goldstein, speaking as a panelist at the February 2nd Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C., was asked about the current environment and prospects of widespread immigration enforcement.  He responded by saying that “if we were to engage in massive deportations, our agricultural system would collapse.”

Multiple media articles have addressed grower concerns about their workforce; unfortunately, growers are also using this platform to criticize the H-2A program as being too burdensome and difficult to use.  The truth is that 95% of applications to DOL for H-2A workers are approved and in a timely manner.  The program’s rapid expansion belies claims that it is inaccessible.  Expansion of the already abusive H-2A program is not a solution to our broken immigration system and the senseless immigration enforcement we are now seeing.  Streamlining access to the H-2A industry and including year-round industries does nothing to address the needs of our current experienced workers and the insecurity they and their families are facing; in fact, it could lead to their displacement.  Greater protections for farmworkers and a path to legal immigration status and citizenship are needed.

Attracting and Retaining Workers by Improving Wages and Benefits

For farms experiencing labor shortages, one farm provides a clear model for attracting workers.  Christopher Ranch, the country’s largest fresh garlic producer, decided to increase wages in order to attract workers.  While the California state minimum wage is set to rise to $15 per hour in 2022, the grower is looking to get there by 2018, and has already bumped pay from $11 to $13 per hour this year.  As a result, they report a wait list of 150 workers.  While we recognize that some regions or growers may be experiencing bona fide labor shortages, more often than not these growers are not offering sufficient pay and working conditions in order to attract a stable workforce.

Guestworker Legislation:  H.R. 641, The BARN Act, re-introduced in 115th Congress

U.S. Rep. Rick Allen (GA) has re-introduced the Better Agricultural Resources Now Act, or BARN Act. Allen had also proposed the legislation in the previous Congress, and our summary of that bill can be found here.

The bill fundamentally transforms the H-2A program, eroding the rights and protections of foreign guestworkers and causing further harm to U.S. workers.  Among other provisions, the bill would transfer oversight of the application process from the Department of Labor to the Department of Agriculture while also limiting access to legal services, eliminate the housing guarantee, and expand the program to include year-round jobs.  The bill also sets an arbitrary wage cap at 115% of the applicable federal or state minimum wage, which would almost certainly fall below the current adverse effect wage rate (AEWR) for most states.

Labor Secretary Nominees: Andrew Puzder Withdraws, Alex Acosta Nominated

After a hearing date for the Labor Secretary nominee had finally been set, and amid growing concern that he did not have enough votes from his own party, Andrew Puzder removed himself from consideration.

Farmworker Justice opposed his nomination and is pleased that he has withdrawn.  President Trump has now nominated Alex Acosta.  We at Farmworker Justice look forward to learning about Mr. Acosta’s vision for the Department’s fulfillment of its mission.  The Department of Labor maintains important programs affecting agricultural workers.  These include employment and training programs, licensing farm labor contractors, setting occupational safety standards, administering the H-2A agricultural guestworker program, and enforcing the minimum wage and other wage-hour laws.  Many farmworkers experience low wages and violations of their limited labor protections.  We hope to learn the nominee’s views on building a more sustainable, prosperous and equitable agricultural sector.


Responding to the dire situation created by President Trump’s actions and statements on immigration, an anonymous donor has issued a matching challenge.  Every dollar raised between now and May 1st, will be matched up to $10,000.  Please help us serve immigrant farmworkers by meeting this challenge.  Any amount of your donation will help.  Donations are tax-deductible.  Donate with a credit card online or send a check to Farmworker Justice, 1126 16th St., NW, Suite 270, Washington, D.C. 20036.  Thank you.

Farmworker Justice


Executive Order on Federal Regulations Contravenes the  Rule of Law

President Trump’s executive order issued on Monday requiring elimination of two regulations per each single new regulation issued represents a sound-bite approach to governing that is irresponsible and contrary to the rule of law.  “The stated purpose of the order – to reduce business costs – is not only inappropriately one-sided but also contradicts many of the laws that require agencies to issue regulations.   If carried out, this order would likely result in harm to the health, safety, working conditions, housing quality, and other aspects of the lives of farmworkers and their children.  The ill-considered executive order should be withdrawn,” said Bruce Goldstein, President of Farmworker Justice.

A President may not and should not simply order federal agencies to withdraw existing regulations before issuing new regulations to achieve a numerical goal. Regulations are not a numbers game; they are a way this nation carries out the rule of law.  Congress passes legislation that often delegates to federal agencies the obligation to take action through regulations to achieve specified purposes and goals.  After giving the public and stakeholders the opportunity to comment on the wisdom and legality of a proposal, agencies must publish their reasoning and provide evidence to back up their regulatory decisions.

The President has the power under many laws to revise or even eliminate regulations, but agencies must do so in accordance with law and based on sound policy and facts.

The invalidity of the Executive Order is also evident from the President’s stated goal of helping businesses large and small; under our Constitution and our laws, regulations may not be evaluated simply on the basis of whether they help business or not.  It may be profitable for some businesses to spray toxic pesticides on fields without regard to whether workers are in the field or children are playing on school grounds adjacent to the field, but that should not be the motivation for withdrawing regulations when issuing new rules on other topics.

If federal agencies were forced to comply with this Executive Order, chaos could occur throughout the government on a wide range of issues.  These issues include regulations that support safety of food, vehicles, airlines, workplaces, financial institutions, and the environment.

Farmworker Justice Statement on President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration

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.

Executive Order on Immigration May Address Farmworkers

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.

Farmworker Justice Statement on President Trump’s Plans for Anti-Immigrant Executive Actions

“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.

Farmworker Justice Immigration Update, January 18, 2017

Dear friends,


With just two days until the inauguration of President-elect Trump, Washington, DC  is preparing for the change in government.  The Senate has been busy holding hearings on many of Trump’s nominees, although the hearing on the nominee for the Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, has been postponed until February 2 and there is not yet a nominee for the Secretary of Agriculture. Farmworker Justice has joined several coalition letters and statements opposing Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, EPA Administrator nominee Scott Pruitt, and Secretary of Labor nominee Puzder. Links to the statements and letters can be found below.

As we have noted in previous updates, the anti-immigrant rhetoric and backgrounds of Trump and some of his key advisors and nominees combined with the threats of harsh immigration enforcement and potential termination of the DACA program have generated a great deal of anxiety and fear in immigrant communities.

Some farmers are also concerned about the threatened immigration enforcement and the impact it may have on their ability to find workers.  The article reports that some farmers are investing in more machinery and others are wondering if they will need to pay more to attract workers. Tom Nassif, President of the Western Growers Association and advisor to Trump, stated that Trump is not interested in deporting their workers.


DACA and the BRIDGE Act

FJ has joined a letter from over 850 organizations requesting President-elect Trump to continue DACA.  Also, on January 12, 2017, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) reintroduced the BRIDGE Act, with companion bipartisan legislation introduced in the House.  The BRIDGE Act would extend protection from deportation as well as continued access to work permits for Dreamers in the event the Trump administration revokes DACA.  While we are disappointed the legislation doesn’t go further to ensure a path to citizenship for Dreamers and provide broader relief for our broken immigration system, we believe the legislation is important to ensure protection for those Dreamers who came forward to participate in the DACA program.

Farmworker Justice is watching and will report on developments in the new Congress and upcoming Administration.  In addition to the fears immigrant farmworker families are experiencing, we are very concerned by likely efforts by agribusiness to limit government oversight and protections in the H-2A guestworker program.


Trump’s Competing Views on Guestworkers

Trump himself has an interest in the H-2A program that could lead to self-interested changes removing key worker protections.  As reported by The Washington Post, he is the president of a Charlottesville, VA vineyard that has applied for H-2A workers for multiple years, including for 2017.  On the other hand, Trump has repeatedly stressed his interest in protecting American workers and, as we reported in an earlier blog, released a YouTube video stating that he intends to “direct the Department of Labor to investigate all abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker.” Protecting American workers is  intermeshed with protecting workers with H-2A visas, as the exploitation and vulnerability of H-2A workers harms not only those workers on visas, but all other farmworkers.   The conflict between the pro-exploited-labor lobby and anti-immigrant voices in the incoming Administration is worth observing closely for its  impact the H-2A program protections.


First H-2A Legislation of the Session Introduced

The first H-2A legislation of this Congress was introduced on January 4— the so-called“Family Farm Relief Act of 2017,” HR 281.  The bill proposes to revise H-2A agricultural guestworker program in ways that would deprive U.S. citizens and permanent resident immigrants of job opportunities and allow exploitation of vulnerable foreign citizens who are hired on temporary work visas.  The bill also would permit employers of year-round livestock workers to hire foreign workers under the H-2A program rather than keep its focus on addressing the alleged difficulty of filling jobs that are seasonal or temporary.  Lacking in this bill are any meaningful steps to stop rampant labor abuses under the H-2A program.  Nor does the bill provide a path to immigration status and citizenship for current undocumented agricultural workers or the future year-round dairy workers.  .  Versions of this bill were introduced in earlier Congresses but have never advanced.  The legislation was likely introduced in response to interests of dairy farmer constituents in New York.   An analysis of the legislation can be found on our webpage.  


Several recent media pieces of interest include the following:

An article addressing the issue of safety in farmworker transportation, which continues to be a serious concern, as highlighted by the multiple farmworker fatalities that have occurred.

A piece in the Huffington Post noted that providing decent affordable housing may help attract  U.S. farmworkers to fill open jobs. The company, which had built the housing to bring in H-2A guestworkers, also found that worker productivity increased with the new housing.  As we have been arguing for years, instead of keeping farmworker wages low and working conditions poor, growers should be improving conditions and labor standards to attract and retain workers.  We are pleased to see some of these basic principles of supply and demand are beginning to get recognition in agriculture.

And finally, a LA Times article discussing a plan released by the produce industry regarding abusive Mexican labor conditions.  While this is an important issue that needs to be addressed, the produce industry unfortunately elected not to engage with farm labor unions to design its plan and is instead an effort  by some of the big players to avoid the real efforts at meaningful corporate social responsibility in agriculture, such as the Equitable Food Initiative, of which FJ is a founding board member, and the Coalition of Immokalee’s Fair Food program.


Reminder: Please join our webinar on Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017 at 2:00 PM EST with the Mexican Consulate to learn more about their potential services and how to work with the Consulate to help farmworkers in your community in the face of potential immigration enforcement.

Register now!

A Conversation with the Mexican consulate: Discussing services and protections for Mexican nationals

Please join Farmworker Justice for a conversation with Alejandro Celorio Alcantara, the Head of Section / Hispanic and Migration Affairs for the Embassy of Mexico. Mr. Celorio will share with us the work in which the Mexican consulates are engaging to help their nationals in the face of increased immigration enforcement under the Trump Administration. Mr. Celorio will also discuss potential collaboration to help Mexican workers facing violations of their workplace rights. The call will enable participants to gain a better understanding of how they can collaborate with the Mexican consulate in their communities to better improve services and protections for Mexican nationals.



Attorney General nominee Sessions

Letter from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national organizations committed to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States, and  144 organizations writing to express strong opposition to the confirmation of Senator Jefferson B. Sessions (R-AL) to be the 84th Attorney General of the United States.

Statement from the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a coalition of 40 of the nation’s most preeminent Latino advocacy organizations, which adopted a resolution, presented by MALDEF, opposing the nomination of U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions to be U.S. Attorney General, citing his long record in opposition to immigration reform and his work to undermine the protections of voting and civil rights laws.  Farmworker Justice is on the Board of the NHLA


Labor Secretary nominee Puzder

Statement from the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, which sent a letter to the U.S. Senate opposing the confirmation of Andrew F. Puzder as U.S. Secretary of Labor citing Puzder’s practices and policy positions that are at odds with the needs and aspirations of American workers. Puzder has expressed opposition to raising the minimum wage, has criticized paid sick leave policies like those mandated for federal contractors, and has said that expanding eligibility for overtime pay is bad for workers.  FJ’s Bruce Goldstein is a cosigner of the NHLA letter as he is a co-chair of its economic empowerment and labor committee.


EPA Administrator nominee Pruitt

Statement from the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of 40 of the nation’s preeminent Latino advocacy organizations, which adopted a motion opposing the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), citing his long record working to undermine the environmental protections and enforcement entrusted to this vital agency.  FJ’s Virginia Ruiz is co-chair of the NHLA Energy and Environment committee.


Department of Agriculture nominee

As of January 18th, the only Cabinet level position that remains unfilled is that of Agriculture secretary; possibly due to disagreement between different factions of Trump’s transition team.

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!


UN Special Rapporteur in Trafficking in Persons Concerned about H-2A Guestworker Program

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a statement, released on December 19, following a visit to the United States by Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, UN Special Rapporteur in Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children.

The Special Rapporteur, in discussing trafficking, raised concerns about the vulnerability of agricultural guestworkers due to their non-immigrant status under the H-2A temporary foreign agricultural worker program and ongoing abuses under the program.

It is helpful at this moment to have objective observers investigate and comment on the H-2A temporary foreign agricultural guestworker program. Agricultural employers’ use of the H-2A visa program has grown rapidly and likely will continue to expand. Grower associations are campaigning to lower H-2A wage rates and reduce government oversight.

The UN Special Rapporteur said:
“The legal framework governing temporary visas for migrant workers, especially H-2A visa for temporary or seasonal agricultural work and H-2B visa for temporary or seasonal non-agricultural work visas, is of particular concern as it exposes applicants to the risk of exploitation, including human trafficking.”
In practice, she found that for many guestworkers reporting human rights violations or quitting their jobs to return home “is impossible because of the debts they incur from recruitment agencies’ fees.”

She called on the United States to improve the way the program operates and to do more to stop abuses.
Her comments echo our report, “No Way to Treat a Guest: Why the H-2A Agricultural Visa Program Fails U.S. and Foreign Workers,” available on our website.

The UN’s statement will be useful as we and allies defend farmworkers in the policy battle that will occur in the next Administration and Congress and seek to build a just immigration system that respects working people.


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