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.
Last week, the House Judiciary Committee gave notice that it will mark-up Rep. Gowdy’s “SAFE Act” (H.R. 2278) beginning this Tuesday, and then it will proceed to mark-up Rep. Goodlatte’s “Agricultural Guestworker Act” or “AG Act” (H.R. 1773). The Safe Act would effectively criminalize immigrants’ unlawful presence, making millions of aspiring citizens who could benefit from legalization subject to criminal prosecution. It would also give enormous authority to state and local police officers to enforce immigration law without federal oversight.
Rep. Goodlatte’s “Agricultural Guestworker Act,” H.R. 1773, is not only one of the worst guestworker bills in decades, it also fails to address our broken immigration system. Instead of providing a solution that includes a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants, this bill would convert the labor force of an entire industry, from the fields to the agricultural processing plants, into to an army of guestworkers. While some undocumented farmworkers would be allowed to become guestworkers, there are no provisions for their family members. The bill would separate families, displace US farmworkers and lower the already low wages and working conditions of farmworkers. It is also inconsistent with the bipartisan, labor-management compromise in the Senate immigration bill.
We encourage you to contact your representatives and members of the House Judiciary Committee to ask them to oppose these bills. The capitol switchboard number is 202-224-3121. We will also be sending out a sign-on letter opposing the bills soon. Please watch for it as it will require a quick turnaround.
Today, the Senate will resume debate on the “Gang of 8” bipartisan immigration bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Economic Modernization Act of 2013, S.744. Votes on amendments are not expected until Tuesday, followed by intense debate for the rest of the week.
Over 100 amendments have already been filed, with more expected (there is no deadline to file amendments). Last week, Sen. Grassley’s Amendment #1195 was tabled (not allowed to go forward) by a vote of 57-43. The amendment would have delayed the implementation of the broad legalization program until the Secretary of Homeland Security submits a certification of effective control and full deployment and completion of the border security strategies in the bill. Many more amendments imposing additional “triggers” before the legalization programs can take effect have been filed, some of which would also impact the farmworker “Blue Card” legalization program for farmworkers. Other amendments have been filed on a variety of topics as well. We are in the process of analyzing them and will provide more information on them shortly.
Stay in the know by reading our briefs on the latest happenings in immigration reform and the impacts on farmworkers.
Immigration reform updates
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.