The House Judiciary Committee will mark-up four punitive, one-sided immigration bills this week. The four bills revive previously-failed bills. If they were to pass, they would deepen the problems of our broken immigration system. They are: Rep. Trey Gowdy’s (R-SC) draconian interior enforcement “SAFE Act” from last Congress, renamed the “Michael Davis, Jr. in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act” (H.R. 1148); Rep. Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) “Legal Workforce Act, (H.R. 1147)” which requires all employers to use the E-verify system for checking immigration status; Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-UT) “Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act of 2015” (H.R. 1153), which would gravely harm asylum seekers, survivors of domestic violence and trafficking, military members, and abused neglected or abandoned children; and Rep. John Carter’s (R-TX) ironically named, “Protection of Children Act of 2015” (H.R. 1149), which would lower due process standards for all unaccompanied children and expedite their removal from the US.
A very conservative, outspoken federal judge yesterday issued a temporary order blocking the Federal Government from implementing the President’s deferred action programs that were announced on November 20, 2014, known as DAPA and expanded DACA. The not unexpected ruling held that of the 26 states challenging the programs, Texas, at least, has “standing” to sue. The district court judge based the order enjoining the deferred action programs on the claim that the Obama Administration had not followed proper procedures in creating the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) Program and the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (expanded DACA) program. The judge reserved for later the decisions of whether the programs violate any law or the Constitution. The U.S. Government will appeal the temporary injunction against President Obama's immigration relief, and the appeal is likely to succeed. The ruling unfortunately creates uncertainty and fear in affected communities, but should be recognized as being only a temporary roadblock as the President’ actions were constitutional and will prevail. Farmworker Justice urges individuals to stay calm and to continue preparing for administrative relief. The decision does not affect the current DACA program announced in 2012, which is still in effect and accepting new applications and applications for renewal.
“Farmworker Justice, along with many legal experts, believes that President Obama’s executive actions are a proper exercise of his prosecutorial discretion, are constitutional, and will ultimately prevail. Farmworker Justice urges the Department of Justice to request the Court of Appeals to issue an emergency stay, which could expedite the process of review,” said Bruce Goldstein, president of Farmworker Justice. “Several hundred thousand farmworkers who labor on our farms and ranches could be eligible for these deferred action programs. The programs are well within the President’s authority. By eliminating the constant fear of deportation, farmworkers and other aspiring Americans will be able to contribute more fully to their communities and will be empowered in their workplaces.”
Farmworker Justice will continue to work with groups throughout the country to support and plan implementation of the DAPA/DACA programs and to win legislation that creates a path to citizenship for undocumented farmworker families.
Washington, DC – Farmworker Justice opposes amendments to the appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security (H.R. 240) that seek to prevent the Administration from implementing President Obama’s immigration executive actions, which are urgently needed to protect immigrant families, youth, and others.
“The DACA and DAPA programs are sensible efforts to address the broken immigration system that is harming immigrants, employers, and the nation. They are a modest step in the right direction and should not be obstructed,” said Bruce Goldstein, President of Farmworker Justice. Among agricultural workers, the people who labor in dangerous, low-paid jobs on our farms and ranches, a majority are undocumented. Many of these undocumented farmworkers live in fear of detection, job loss and deportation, and are vulnerable to abuse.
The President’s deferred action programs will allow eligible residents who lack authorized immigration status to come forward, submit to background checks and properly document themselves with the federal government and in their workplaces. Those undocumented immigrants who qualify will obtain a temporary relief from deportation and temporary work authorization. “With protection against the constant fear of deportation, farmworkers and other aspiring Americans will be able to contribute more fully to their communities and will be empowered in their workplaces,” said Goldstein.
The President’s actions are a proper exercise of his authority to enforce immigration laws. “Congressional efforts to prevent the Administration from taking these modest steps should be rejected not only because the President possesses the authority, but also because the Administration’s efforts are sensible and humanitarian as well as economically beneficial to our nation and food system,” said Goldstein.
We commend President Obama’s action to address our broken immigration system. The President took action because Congress has refused to address the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform. In 2013, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill that included a carefully negotiated compromise regarding agricultural workers and employers. Unfortunately, the House failed to act. These proposed amendments move in the fundamentally wrong direction.
The Department of Homeland Security is Funded Through September
Last week, Congress narrowly averted a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for at least one week. As you’ll remember from previous updates, House Republicans had passed a DHS-funding bill that included language blocking President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, including the 2012 DACA program. The Senate held repeated votes on this legislation but was unable to muster the 60 votes needed to move forward due to unanimous opposition by Democrats. Furthermore, President Obama had promised to veto the bill.
On Friday morning, the last day that the DHS was funded, the Senate removed the House’s language blocking the President’s deferred action programs and passed a “clean” DHS-funding bill with the support of Democratic Senators. To satisfy conservatives focused on blocking battling President Obama’s executive actions, Senator Collins introduced a bill that would prevent President Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration from going into effect. So far, the Collins’ bill has lacked the votes to move forward, although four Democrats – Senators Donnelly (IN), Heitkamp (ND), Manchin (WV), and McCaskill (MO) – joined all Republicans to vote in favor of moving forward on the bill. The Senate is expected to revisit it after the DHS funding battle is over.
The Senate passage of the “clean” funding bill put the funding issue back in the House’s hands, where there was a surprising defeat of a proposed 3-week extension of current funding before the House managed to get a one week funding extension passed shortly before midnight. The one week extension relied on the support of House Democrats, who were reportedly promised the opportunity to vote on a clean funding bill through September this week.
On Tuesday, the House passed a bill by 257-167 to fund the Department of Homeland Security through September without any language blocking President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. 167 Republicans voted against the bill. The bill has already passed the Senate and the President is expected to sign it into law.
House Judiciary Committee to Mark-up Harsh Enforcement-only Bills
The House Judiciary Committee will begin marking-up four punitive, enforcement-oriented immigration bills on Tuesday. The four bills are revived versions of previous-failed bills. They are Rep. Trey Gowdy’s (R-SC) draconian interior enforcement “SAFE Act” from last congress, renamed the “Michael Davis, Jr. in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act” (H.R. 1148); Rep. Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) “Legal Workforce Act,” which requires all employers to use E-Verify; Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-UT) “Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act of 2015” (H.R. 1153), which would gravely harm asylum seekers, survivors of domestic violence and trafficking, military members, and abused neglected or abandoned children; and Rep. John Carter’s (R-TX) ironically named, “Protection of Children Act of 2015” (H.R. 1149), which would lower due process standards for all unaccompanied children and expedite their removal from the US.
Mandatory E-verify and local law enforcement of immigration would increase fear and drive undocumented farmworkers deeper into the underground economy, leading them to work for unscrupulous employers and labor contractors. These bills would further destabilize the farm labor force and harm the estimated 1.2 million undocumented farmworkers working hard to put food on our tables.
Enforcement-only approaches to immigration have been tried before and failed. The House Judiciary Committee is out of touch with the large majority of Americans who understand that deporting 11 million people is inhumane and unrealistic. The House Judiciary Committee should stop wasting time with political posturing and instead work towards a compromise solution to fix our immigration system, which must include a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the US.
The President Promotes his Executive Actions
President Obama spoke at a televised town hall last week in Miami on his executive actions on immigration. Members of the United Farm Workers and the Florida Association of Farmworkers attended the event along with leaders of their organizations. The President also met with several leaders of immigrant organizations, immigrants’ rights groups and labor unions last week. Obama expressed confidence that the Administration will prevail in the lawsuit against his deferred action programs—DAPA and extended DACA. The President also promised that he would veto any piecemeal legislation that does not contain a path to citizenship for the 11 million.
Legalized Farmworkers Will Stay in Agriculture
A recent NPR news story debunks the myth that undocumented farmworkers will leave agriculture once they obtain work authorization. As an expert in the article explains, when farmworkers do leave agriculture, it is not because of their legal status, but because they can't earn enough money from the low-wages and temporary work. Therefore, the answer to stabilizing the farm labor market is to improve wages and working conditions and provide stable employment. The story indicates that some growers are lobbying Congress for a new temporary agricultural guestworker program, but fails to mention that growers already have access to an unlimited number of guestworkers through the H-2A temporary agricultural guestworker program. A new agricultural guestworker program with lower wages and fewer worker protections than exist in the H-2A program is not a solution to stabilize the agricultural labor market. It would only lead to greater worker exploitation and displacement of US farmworkers and other experienced workers.
The real solution is to offer experienced farmworkers the opportunity to earn citizenship and for the food industry to adapt and improve farm jobs and conditions in order to maintain a productive and stable workforce and food supply. Farmworker Justice continues to monitor Congress for harmful agricultural guestworker proposals and educate legislators and their staff on such proposals and the H-2A program.
On November 20th, 2014 President Obama announced his plans for executive action on immigration. We applaud the President’s action, which includes a deferred action program that provides relief from deportation and work authorization for millions of undocumented individuals, including hundreds of thousands of farmworkers and their family members.
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.