The Senate Judiciary Committee finished debating and amending the immigration bill drafted by the Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of Eight.” The Committee then voted to approve and send to the floor of the Senate the amended version of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, S.744. Farmworker Justice President Bruce Goldstein issued the following statement:
Following a subcommittee hearing of the House Judiciary Committee focused on the implications of H.R. 1773, the “Agricultural Guestworker Act,” sponsored by Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Farmworker Justice President Bruce Goldstein made the following statement:
“This bill will only serve to magnify the dysfunction in our current system and deserves no serious consideration. It is merely a distraction from the agricultural immigration compromise included in the Senate immigration bill, which has broad support and resulted from months of difficult negotiations between major agribusiness groups, the United Farm Workers, and a bipartisan group of Senators.
Rep. Goodlatte’s bill deprives current farmworkers who lack authorized immigration status the opportunity to earn a green card or citizenship while proposing a new agricultural guestworker program that would lead to lower wages and more exploitative conditions for farmworkers. That’s a step backwards for agricultural labor. The men and women working to put food on our tables deserve better.”
We wanted to share with you a brief update of what has been happening on immigration reform for farmworkers.
Senate Judiciary Committee Mark-Up
Today the Senate Judiciary Committee continues to debate and mark-up (process of offering amendments to the bill) the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, S. 744, which was cosponsored by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight.” We are pleased that S. 744 includes the agricultural immigration compromise that was reached after months of difficult negotiations led by Senators Feinstein, Bennet, Rubio and Hatch between agricultural representatives and the United Farm Workers. We are following the mark-up closely to help ensure that the delicate agricultural compromise is not adversely impacted and to help our friends and allies ensure that other provisions of the bill, such as the roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million, remain accessible and meaningful. The Senate Judiciary Committee mark-up is expected to be completed by the end of next week.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is proceeding through the mark-up by bill titles and today it plans to complete Title IV and begin the employment verification amendments to Title III. Title IV is the title addressing reforms to nonimmigrant visa programs, which includes the newly created “W” worker program for low-skilled occupations (not to be confused with the new nonimmigrant agricultural visa program, which provides workers a W3 or W4 visa, and is located in Title II along with the farmworker legalization program). Title III addresses a variety of interior enforcement issues, including e-verify, asylee/refugee issues, immigration crime issues, and protections to prevent trafficking and international labor recruitment issues. On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee completed its mark-up of Title I, addressing border security and began work on Title IV. The Senate Judiciary Committee webpage includes a list of all amendments which were debated on Tuesday.
Farmworker Justice has reviewed all of the amendments, with a focus on amendments that are particularly important to farmworkers or to our broader goals of an accessible and meaningful legalization program for the 11 million and fair treatment of workers. Several of the proposed amendments would harm farmworkers. Some amendments raise issues that, however valid, were considered during the negotiations by the “Gang of Eight” and will be rejected to avoid upsetting the delicate compromise.
House Judiciary Committee Hearing
Also today, the House Judiciary subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security will hold a hearing titled “HR 1773, the “’Agricultural Guestworker Act.’” HR 1773 is a harsh one-sided guestworker program that would slash farmworker wages and protections without offering current farmworkers a path to immigration status. It represents an attempt by restrictionists to try a piecemeal one-sided approach to a complex problem that must be addressed comprehensively and rationally. UFW President Arturo Rodriguez will be testifying along with Lee Wicker of the North Carolina Growers Association; Christopher Gaddis of JBS, USA Holdings, Inc, JBS self-described as the largest animal protein processor in the world; and John Graham, of Graham and Rollins, Inc, one of the largest crab processors on the East Coast and longtime H-2B user. The witness testimony will be available online.
The Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) continues to mark-up S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The Committee is likely to consider the agricultural sections later today. Yesterday, Monday, the SJC completed its work debating and amending Title III (interior enforcement) and began work on Title II, addressing legalization and future immigration. Title II contains the farmworker immigration compromise, including both the earned legalization blue card program and the new nonimmigrant agricultural worker W3 and W4 visa programs.
Farmworker Justice is very pleased that yesterday’s mark-up included the adoption of Sen. Blumenthal’s amendments 3, 4, and 5 which add needed provisions to ensure the effectiveness of Subtitle F, entitled Prevention of Trafficking in Persons and Abuses Involving Workers Recruited Abroad. Subtitle F aims to curb trafficking and labor abuses during the recruitment of foreign citizens for employment in the U.S. under visa programs such as the H-2A agricultural guestworker program and the new W3 and W4 visas. Abuse in the international recruitment of workers across visa programs is rampant and in its worst form results in forced labor and human trafficking.
Read the full posting for a breakdown of additional amendments.
Immigration is a critically important issue for farmworkers. Learn about current legislation proposals impacting farmworkers.
Learn about the history of guestworker programs, H-2A program for temporary agricultural work, and the H-2B visa program.
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