Latest News

Below are our latest news on important news and events relating to policy changes and issues affecting farmworkers and their families.

October 25, 2017

Farmworker Justice condemns the passage today, in the House Judiciary Committee, of an amended version of the “Agricultural Guestworker Act,” HR 4092, sponsored by Committee Chair Goodlatte (R-VA). This legislation would replace the current H-2A agricultural guestworker program with a devastating new H-2C program, expanding employer access to potentially millions of vulnerable new “guestworkers.” The program would reach not just traditional seasonal farm work, but also would include year round jobs in many occupations, such as meat and poultry packing and processing, forestry, aquaculture, and more.

Adrienne DerVartanian, the Director of Immigration and Labor Policy of Farmworker Justice said today, “This legislation is fundamentally anti-immigrant and anti-worker. It would make life monumentally worse for agricultural workers, including the hundreds of thousands of U.S. farmworkers and the roughly one million undocumented workers currently doing this work, as well as the untold number of guestworkers who could come to the U.S. to labor under this program.”

The impact of this bill’s exploitative conditions would have a profoundly adverse impact on US workers because it allows employers to provide substandard wages and working conditions. As the new program erases existing labor protections, including crucial wage requirements, U.S. workers will be displaced or earn lower wages.

The bill fails to provide a solution for the many undocumented farmworkers who labor daily to ensure America has a safe, secure and abundant food supply. The legislation denies current undocumented farmworkers the chance to earn immigration status or citizenship. Instead, undocumented workers would be required to self-deport and would be dependent on an employer to sponsor them for an H-2C visa. Instead of supporting families, this bill would tear families apart as the legislation specifically and intentionally separates families by prohibiting family visas. This is cruel and senseless—to the farmworkers who have worked here for years, to their families, and to the U.S. communities they have helped build and sustain.

It is not surprising that the discussion during the markup turned to sharecropping and indentured servitude given the significant negative impact this bill would have on the millions of guestworkers who could enter the U.S. under this program. These new H-2C guestworkers would likely face debt, extremely low wages, dangerous living and working conditions, and extremely limited access to justice. Additionally, workers would be separated from their families and would have no path to citizenship, even if they worked in the U.S. for years.”

There is a sensible solution to address the impact of the broken immigration system on agriculture, the Agricultural Worker Program Act, introduced by Rep. Gutierrez (D-IL) and Sen. Feinstein (D-CA). The Agricultural Worker Program Act recognizes the value of farmworkers to the stability of our food system by providing a path to citizenship for qualified farmworkers and their families. The legislation would benefit not only farmworkers and agricultural employers, but also our national interest in a secure, safe food supply.

Farmworker Justice is deeply disappointed in the passage of this bill, but does appreciate the amendments offered by some Members that sought to improve wages and working conditions, ensure access to justice, provide housing, offer a path to immigration status and citizenship, and limit the scope and size of this program. While unsuccessful, these amendments and the debate thereon highlighted the devastating nature of the bill for all workers. Farmworker Justice will continue to fight to defeat this terrible legislation and to seek for justice for farmworkers, including an opportunity for immigration status and improved wages and working conditions.

 

October 23, 2017

Washington, D.C. - On October 24, 2017, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to mark-up Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.)“Agricultural Guestworker Act.” Rep. Goodlatte’s bill was originally scheduled to be marked up earlier this month, but the hearing was postponed. Farmworker Justice strongly opposes this proposal.

Rep. Goodlatte’s proposal would devastate America’s current and future farmworkers.  By stripping away labor protections that evolved over decades in response to abuses, the proposed H-2C visa program would subject hundreds of thousands of U.S. farmworkers to job losses and lower wages, and would allow exploitation of vulnerable guestworkers.  Rep. Goodlatte’s bill also fails provide a workable solution for undocumented farmworkers, who make up at least half of the current workforce and are vital to maintaining our food and agricultural systems. And not just farmworkers would be impacted -- the Agricultural Guestworker Act reaches beyond traditional farm jobs to include agriculture-related processing and manufacturing jobs, as well as forestry and aquaculture.  

Farmworker Justice Director of Immigration and Labor Adrienne DerVartanian said: “Rep. Goodlatte’s bill would create a massive new anti-worker, anti-immigrant guestworker program. This program would subject workers across agriculture and beyond—from the fields to the processing plants, from aquaculture to forestry—to low wages, poor working conditions, and exploitation.  Instead of providing our nation’s experienced undocumented workers with a path to immigration status and citizenship, the only option this bill provides is for undocumented workers to become subjugated contract laborers under the new H-2C program, a program that requires workers to regularly return to their country of origin and intentionally prohibits family members from joining workers.”

Hundreds of thousands of U.S workers depend on these jobs for their livelihood and work hard to make sure America has a safe, abundant food supply. This bill only provides the likelihood of displacement when workers are unwilling to accept the substandard wages and working conditions this bill provides. We are a nation of immigrants, not a nation of guestworkers deprived of economic freedom and political representation.  Congress should reject the Goodlatte bill and other pending anti-worker, anti-immigrant proposals regarding agricultural workers.  It is illogical to allow employers to hire more guestworkers without first addressing the need to legalize the hundreds of thousands of experienced farmworkers who are already contributing to our economy and society, many with U.S. citizen children and deep ties to their communities.

Our agricultural labor system deserves a real solution that provides a path to citizenship for farmworkers, as is offered in the Agricultural Worker Program Act introduced by Rep. Gutierrez (D-IL) and Sen. Feinstein (D-CA).  The Agricultural Guestworker Act would create an extremely abusive new guestworker program that would transform the farm labor force into a system of non-immigrant guestworkers who hold temporary work permits and are subjected to low wages and poor working conditions, with inadequate recourse for the  abuses that will inevitably result from the program’s inherently flawed structure.  

October 02, 2017

On October 2, 2017, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) introduced  the “Agricultural Guestworker Act.” Farmworker Justice strongly opposes this proposal.

Rep. Goodlatte’s proposal would devastate America’s current and future farmworkers.  By stripping away labor protections that evolved over decades in response to abuses, the proposed H-2C visa program would subject hundreds of thousands of U.S. farmworkers to job losses and lower wages, and would allow exploitation of vulnerable guestworkers.  Rep. Goodlatte’s bill also fails provide a workable solution for  undocumented farmworkers, who make up at least half of the current workforce and are vital to maintaining our food and agricultural systems. And not just farmworkers would be impacted -- the Agricultural Guestworker Act reaches beyond traditional farm jobs to include agriculture-related processing and manufacturing jobs, as well as forestry and aquaculture.  

Farmworker Justice President Bruce Goldstein stated: “Increased deportations and other immigration enforcement have exacerbated an already untenable situation for farmworkers as well as their employers.  This bill would  aggravate the unfairness and dysfunction in our current system.  Rep. Goodlatte’s bill proposes a massive new guestworker program that would deprive U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents of job opportunities, lower farmworkers’ already poor wages, and allow exploitative conditions for new guestworkers, worsening labor conditions for all farmworkers. And instead of taking steps to stabilize the existing experienced, productive workforce through a path to citizenship for current undocumented farmworkers, Goodlatte’s bill would  substitute one third-class status for another by seeking to convert undocumented workers into subjugated contract laborers. Rep. Goodlatte’s proposed H-2C visa program deserves no serious consideration.”

We are a nation of immigrants, not a nation of guestworkers deprived of economic freedom and political representation.  Congress should reject the Goodlatte bill and other pending anti-worker, anti-immigrant proposals regarding agricultural workers.  It makes no sense to allow employers to hire more guestworkers without first addressing the need to legalize the hundreds of thousands of experienced farmworkers who are already contributing to our economy and society, many with U.S. citizen children and deep ties to their communities.  Our agricultural labor system deserves a real solution that provides a path to citizenship for farmworkers, as is offered in the Agricultural Worker Program Act introduced by Rep. Gutierrez (D-IL) and Sen. Feinstein (D-CA).