Farm groups that have been appealing to the federal government for years to address a labor shortage could finally see some action from the next Congress should Democrats win control of the government, but any expansion of access to foreign labor will likely come with strings attached.
A recent State Department move is expected to speed approval of farmworkers seeking to enter the country, but observers of the process are still keeping a watchful eye on many parts of the H-2A program.
The Democratic-controlled House approved a bill Wednesday to expand the H-2A visa program to year-round farmworkers and provide growers relief from wage hikes, but the broad GOP opposition underscored the challenge of getting Congress to address the agricultural labor squeeze.
A bill to expand the H-2A farm worker visa program and provide legal status to existing agricultural employees is headed to the House floor despite strong opposition from Republicans who derided it as a “massive amnesty” measure.
Farmers nationwide could be forced sometime soon to start ensuring the eligibility of all new employees using the federal E-Verify system, which current agricultural users say is so flawed that many undocumented applicants can easily get around.
House Democrats are about to attempt something that Washington hasn’t been done in over three decades: Enact immigration reforms that would give farmers better access to foreign workers while offering legal status to their existing employees.