Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee approved the “Agricultural Guestworker Act” (H.R. 1773), or “Ag Act,” the second partisan immigration bill this week that does little to fix our broken immigration system. Introduced by Representative Goodlatte (R–Va.), Chair of the Judiciary Committee, the “Ag Act” would replace the current agricultural visa program with a new, but even more dysfunctional, guestworker program. The bill fails to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented agricultural workers, weakens labor protections, and will ultimately disrupt the U.S. agricultural industry. In short, the “Ag Act” does not bring us any closer to a working immigration system.
Key Provisions of the “Ag Act”
- Replaces the current H2-A visa program for temporary agricultural workers with a new H2-C visa program
- Fails to provide a pathway to citizenship or permanent residency for undocumented agricultural workers
- Requires agricultural workers to leave the country following the end of their visa without providing any guarantee that they will be able to return
- Eliminates the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR), one of the minimum wage rate standards for agricultural workers established annually by U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Replaces the H2-A labor certification process for employers to hire foreign agricultural workers with a new attestation process that will result in less employer accountability and less protection for agricultural workers
Like the enforcement-only measure that the Committee marked up and passed on Tuesday, most of the amendments adopted during the committee hearing only made the bill worse. One of the most egregious amendments, offered by Representative Goodlatte, requires undocumented agricultural workers to report themselves as undocumented, voluntarily leave the country, and then return only at the request of their employer. Essentially, Chairman Goodlatte’s amendment creates a policy of self-deportation similar to the one espoused by Governor Mitt Romney in his failed presidential bid. American voters rejected the idea of self-deportation because it fails to offer a real solution to fix our broken immigration system. Self-deportation did not work Governor Romney and it will not work for Representative Goodlatte.
For more information about the key provisions of the bill, see the summary provided by Farmworker Justice.