Following up on Charlie’s article on Monday, Congressmen Kingston and Westmoreland are pushing reform of the H-2A visa. The H2A visa allows laborers to legally enter the U.S. to work in the agricultural industry. The current rules governing H-2A simply don’t work, increasing the incentive for laborers to come here illegally and farmers to employ them. Let me join those praising Kingston and Westmoreland for pushing this bill.
• shift a portion of regulatory responsibility for the H2A program from the Department of Labor to the Department of Agriculture;
• expand the definition of agricultural worker to include the dairy and ranching industries;
• allow farmers to attach an experience requirement to job postings to allow farmers to be matched with more qualified workers;
• remove requirement for farmers to hire domestic workers during a contract period when there is no existing need for additional workers;
• establish a fair, new farm wage methodology, setting a wage minimum at 115% of whichever is higher of federal, state or local minimum wage;
• allow employers to apply for H-2A workers 30 days in advance of need, reducing it from the current 45 day requirement to give farmers more flexibility in managing their labor supplies and expedites the Department of Labor’s review process;
• make H-2A visas a one year visa which may be renewed once before the worker is required to return to their home country, between renewals an employer must re-test the domestic labor market as if the worker was a first-time applicant;
• shift existing housing requirements to a voucher system, allowing the option of using existing housing rather than requiring farmers build permanent worker housing;
• establish reasonable reforms on the Legal Services Corporation; and
o prohibits legal activism unless the alien is present
o prohibits bringing civil action unless the counterparties have attempted mediation
o prohibits entering H-2A employer property without pre-arranged appointments
o requires respect of existing arbitration process and outcome if employer and employee have an existing arbitration arrangement
• place new restrictions on H-2A participants.
o makes worker who overstays his or her H-2A visa ineligible to reapply for 5 years
o makes any applicant who commits fraudulent activity in connection with obtaining an H-2A visa permanently ineligible
o makes any worker found committing a deportable offense while in the U.S. permanently ineligible
o makes any employer who knowingly hires a worker with an expired H-2A visa or who knowingly facilitates fraudulent activity in connection with the H-2A process permanently ineligible from participation in the H-2A program and other work visa programs
The AJC has more.