While the Senate might have hammered out an agreement on how to deal with the nation’s nearly 1 million migrant agricultural workers – many of them in the U.S. illegally – leaders in the House are proposing a different approach that would turn the Senate’s deal on its head.
And that’s got advocacy groups like the United Farm Workers Union – who thought they had a workable deal in the Senate proposal – up in arms.
“The [Senate’s] comprehensive immigration reform proposal — including the agricultural provisions negotiated by the United Farm Workers and major grower associations — fulfills the urgent need for an earned legalization program for farm workers,” Maria Machuca, the communications director for the United Farm Workers Union said. “It would also help stabilize the farm labor workforce through incentives for immigrants to continue working in U.S. agriculture.”
But House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., has been outspoken in his support for a reformed ag program that doesn’t guarantee a special path to permanent status for workers. His bill would allow ag workers to stay in the U.S. temporarily, but most would be required to return home periodically.
Goodlatte’s bill would also grant workers either the state’s minimum wage or the industry’s prevailing wage, whichever is larger.
“By putting farmers in the driver’s seat rather than Washington bureaucrats, they will be better equipped to compete in the global economy and continue growing our crops. It is vital that American farmers have access to a workable guestworker program now so that they can continue putting food on Americans’ tables,” Goodlatte said in a statement. “We have to get this right so that farmers aren’t burdened with another failed guest worker program for decades to come.”
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