While the news channels and talking heads circle around the DC scandals, work is still proceeding on Immigration Reform. We on the farm wait and watch with bated breath to see if any improvements will be made to the presently unworkable system.
Our lobbyists worked tirelessly with congress on the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act”. They attempted to have provisions included that would ensure farmers and ranchers could maintain their experienced workers that are in undocumented status and that the current guest worker program, H-2A was replaced with a program that actually worked. They feel we are closer than we have been for decades to solutions for our industries labor problems.
So without editorial comment I will lay out some of the provisions they have come up with.
- New blue card program:
- Experienced agricultural workers could obtain legal immigration status by satisfying criteria such as passing a background check, paying a fine and proving that applicable taxes have been paid
- Blue card workers would be required to continue to work in agriculture before having an opportunity to apply for a green card
- New visa program:
- Allows agricultural employers to hire guest workers, either under contract or at will.
- Visa holders would be able to work in the U.S. under a three-year visa and work for any designated agricultural employer
- The program would be administered by USDA
- The number of three-year visas would be capped at 112,333 per year; in year three, the total number of visas issued could not exceed 337,000
- After five years, the cap for the number of visas would be determined annually by the U. S. secretary of Agriculture
- Establishes 2016 wage rates for program participants:
Agriculture is a highly individualized industry. So we need to think about how these changes will impact our operations as well as our country and contact our Congressmen with our concerns or questions.
~ Lorraine Newman