Immigration

Bipartisan House Agriculture Bill Is a Win for Both Farmers and Immigrants

The reform could help formalize immigrant farm labor.

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A bipartisan bill that would provide a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants who work in agriculture passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday, providing a glimmer of stability to America's farmers in the midst of an ongoing trade war and an immigrant labor crackdown.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act passed the House in a vote of 260-165, with 34 Republicans voting in favor. In its current form, the bill would permit undocumented aliens to obtain permanent residence if they have worked in domestic agriculture for at least 10 years and are willing to continue working in the industry for an additional four years. After that period, they would be eligible for a green card and could seek employment in another industry. Immigrants with less than 10 years of experience would need to commit to working in agriculture for an additional 8 years to be eligible for permanent residence. 

The bill would also expand the H-2A visa program, which allows farmers to legally hire foreign guest workers. Farmers could employ guest workers year-round, rather than just seasonally. Although the former would be subject to an initial 20,000 visa cap per year for the first three years, it could expand after that period. The reform provides for 40,000 additional green cards for those working in agricultural, allows H-2A recipients to be sponsored for a green card, and permits them to apply for that legal status directly, all of which encourage them not to overstay their visas in violation of immigration law. It also cuts some of the red tape and bureaucratic overview processes that slow down such applications, decreasing time in processing and cutting the associated costs. A pilot program would increase flexibility to a small degree, allowing H-2A recipients to switch jobs if they are able to secure employment in their first two months in the U.S., provided that they continue to work in the agricultural sector.

"I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally," said President Donald Trump during his 2019 State of the Union address. But migrants need a way to do that. At present, those opportunities are few and far between: A low-skilled immigrant from Mexico would have to wait an average of 131 years to successfully immigrate to the U.S. 

"If we want illegal immigration to end, Congress has to guarantee farmers a better way to follow the law," writes David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute.

While some worry that these visas displace American workers, U.S. farmers are required by law to offer H-2A positions first to people who can already legally work in the U.S. They seldom find enough takers. The Cornell Farmworker Program found that dairy farmers rely on undocumented workers because they cannot identify a sufficient amount of U.S.-born employees to fill the positions. This might explain why approximately 50 percent of all farmworkers are undocumented immigrants, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Immigration enforcement against agricultural businesses has thrown the industry into disarray. Farmers have seen large portions of their workforce deported unexpectedly. When farmers can find American-born workers to replace immigrant labor, they face serious retention problems. These staffing problems have been made exponentially worse by the agricultural tariffs China imposed on U.S. products in response to Trump's trade war, which resulted in a bailout of $10 billion for just this year. 

Unfortunately, the House bill also includes an E-Verify requirement, which raises serious civil liberties issues. But the permanent residency opportunity is a welcome reprieve for American farmers and immigrant laborers alike. 

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  1. “Bi-Partisan” means “Twice the usual screwing of citizens not part of a special interest group”.

    1. Amen. Congress has been disserving the working class since forever. Then they wonder what happened in 2016.

    2. So it’s a back donor amnesty for as many illegals as they can cram into this new category?

      1. “Immigrants with less than 10 years of experience would need to commit to working in agriculture for an additional 8 years to be eligible for permanent residence. ”

        Note that 0 is less than 10.

        Not merely amnesty for anyone already here now. Open Borders for anyone who comes.

        “Oh yeah, I’m gonna work in the lettuce fields ASAP. Gimme my permanent residence.”

        Is Coulter ranting about this yet?

        1. You don’t get the green card until the 8 years is up and you document the employment.

  2. I mean, I guess it’s a good idea, but I would rather see fewer “pilot programs”, fewer requirements, and less bureaucracy overall when it came to immigration.

    1. I would like to see less Canadians like you running their mouths about out immigration system here in America, Pedo Jeffy.

    2. “Needz moar Invazion USA!”

  3. “A bipartisan bill that would provide a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants who work in agriculture passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday, providing a glimmer of stability to America’s farmers”

    Regardless of whether I like the bill, this is the way the rules of naturalization are supposed to be changed–according to the Constitution. It still needs to pass the Senate and go the President, right? Yeah, that’s all part of it.

    Contrast this with when the President unconstitutionally inflicts his preferences on the American people because Congress votes his preferred policy down–which is exactly what happened with DACA.

    You know who else used executive orders when he couldn’t get his way in the legislature?

  4. U.S. farmers are required by law to offer H-2A positions first to people who can already legally work in the U.S. They seldom find enough takers. The Cornell Farmworker Program found that dairy farmers rely on undocumented workers because they cannot identify a sufficient amount of U.S.-born employees to fill the positions.

    These bills can be tricky, complex and have unintended consequences years down the road. I’m not going to make any grand pronouncements on this bill, because I haven’t read it and it’s undoubtedly tackling a very complex issue.

    But from a pure, capitalistic standpoint in regards to prices, supply and markets, when I hear things from employment sectors where they’re collectively declaring that they simply can’t find AAANNYONEEE to fill these positions, what that means is your price is too low. In this particular case, the ‘price’ being the ‘offered wage’.

    As I’ve stated before on these boards in years past, everything I know about economics I learned from the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse: Price, it’s not what you say it is, it’s what the market will bear.

    Now, that introduces some other uncomfortable realities for both sides of the immigration debate. Again, from the purely capitalistic, open borders, unregulated trade standpoint, they ARE finding people to do it, they just happen to be illegal laborers. What THAT means is the domestic worker price is… too high.

    But the domestic workers are merely asking for a price based on local market realities. They’re paying taxes, renting or paying mortgages, paying SSN and Medicare taxes, the list goes on. So there are realities, interventions, pressures and effects which are almost too numerous to quantify. Translation: Our market isn’t entirely free, so everyone does the best they can under the constraints they’re saddled with.

    1. FWIW, being in the IT sector, I’ve been on the front lines of this for some time, in regards to a sector of employers whining to the government that they simply can’t find ANY domestic workers to fill these positions, so please expand the H1B visa program sort of… nowish– all while I and various other highly experienced colleagues were struggling to find a position in a tough market.

      When you’re the one not getting calls back from employers at a time when those very employers are lobbying Washington to expand the H1B visa program, that makes people a little touchy about foreign workers.

    2. But from a pure, capitalistic standpoint in regards to prices, supply and markets, when I hear things from employment sectors where they’re collectively declaring that they simply can’t find AAANNYONEEE to fill these positions, what that means is your price is too low. In this particular case, the ‘price’ being the ‘offered wage’.

      Maybe you’re alluding to this but there’s also the other side of the price equation, that it’s fixed too high somewhere else. Why would anyone go *work* in the heat during the 8 hours when the sun is shining for a wage that the market will bear when they can pick their hours in the evening working a retail job in air conditioning at a price that starts out being determined to be a living wage?

      They can’t charge $9.50/lb. of strawberries and pay their employees $15/hr. to pick them the way The Gap can charge $22/lb. of cotton and pay their domestic workers $15/hr. If retail could get away with hiring undocumented seasonal workers, they would.

      1. Maybe you’re alluding to this but there’s also the other side of the price equation, that it’s fixed too high somewhere else. Why would anyone go *work* in the heat during the 8 hours when the sun is shining for a wage that the market will bear when they can pick their hours in the evening working a retail job in air conditioning at a price that starts out being determined to be a living wage?

        Without question. In the early 2000s, I was almost a lone voice in complaining that many in the IT and tech sectors were overpaid.

        If retail could get away with hiring undocumented seasonal workers, they would.

        This is the crux of it. For some reason, Farmers are able to get away with this. There are many who agree that if Farmers had to pay domestic market wages, America would be a lot more expensive.

    3. “U.S. farmers are required by law to offer H-2A positions first to people who can already legally work in the U.S. They seldom find enough takers.”

      In a free market, when you can’t find enough sellers for what you want to buy, you increase the price you offer.

      US immigration policy should not be set to impoverish American workers.

  5. “They seldom find enough takers”

    You mean they seldom find enough takers who will accept the poverty wages they know they can pay illegals.

    1. I don’t even mind the bill but you’re absolutely right. When the choice is to hire an American who can walk away at any time or a Mexican who by statute must stay for EIGHT YEARS in order to obtain legal status, you might leave a few American stones unturned in your efforts to find workers.

    2. Problem is city folks of don’t make good farm workers and don’t want to live on farms at any wage.

      I don’t see any benefit to allowing more low skilled workers to live and work in our urban centers where we already have a sufficient number of unskilled workers already living there with roots in the community. But there is a real problem with depopulation and aging in our rural areas.

      The other area besides farmworkers where I would allow almost unlimited immigration is unmarried females between 18-40 with a clean background check. Women have much lower crime rates than men, lower rates of alcoholism and drug use, and that age range is prime working age so they’ll have many years before they start collecting social security. Hopefully it will also increase our birth rate too.

  6. Libertarians should question all intervention in the market – particularly given it is discriminatory for agriculture only.

    1. Reason only questions market interventions when it *costs* the Koch’s money.

  7. We should all thank God we have an expensive, needless and wasteful bureaucracy like the Department of Agriculture.
    Otherwise cronyism in DC might take a step backwards, and all those politicians and their cronies might have to get a real job.
    Oh, the horror.
    The horror!

  8. Immigration enforcement against agricultural businesses has thrown the industry into disarray. Farmers have seen large portions of their workforce deported unexpectedly.

    Found the problem.

    If you don’t punish the employers of illegal immigrants, they have no incentives to legally hire anyone.

    That aside, I don’t have major opposition to the bill (as-described). I do have a minor concern that restricting people to work in one domain is an artificial constraint that always leads to inefficient allocation of human capital. But it’s better then what we have, I suppose.

    1. 8 U.S. Code § – 1324a. Unlawful employment of aliens
      https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1324a

      (2) Continuing employment
      It is unlawful for a person or other entity, after hiring an alien for employment in accordance with paragraph (1), to continue to employ the alien in the United States knowing the alien is (or has become) an unauthorized alien with respect to such employment.

      1. Yes, like I said. Found the problem.

        Owners/employers are almost never punished despite hiring illegal immigrants, over and over again, in a pattern that defies excuses of ignorance.

        Remember that big “raid” earlier this year, where something like 700 folks were rounded up by ICE in a handful of factories? Was one manager or owner arrested for that? No. Their “well, I didn’t know” claims are on-the-face absurd, but always believed.

        We’re trying to deal with a demand-side problem by cutting off the supply, and then being shocked it doesn’t work.

  9. “If we want illegal immigration to end, Congress has to guarantee farmers a better way to follow the law,” writes Daniel Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute.

    Cato, always propagandizing for ‘open borders.’

    1. Here’s a better way: Stop hiring illegal aliens. It’s a crime.

      8 U.S. Code § – 1324a. Unlawful employment of aliens
      https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1324a

  10. No fucking way! This is another amnesty bill.

    My family farm business finds enough workers.

    Im getting ready to call my contact at ICE about a neighboring farm using illegals. Just in time for Christmas. Adios muchachos.

  11. It’s a lose-lose for the American people.

    NYT Columnist: American ‘Snakes and Vermin’ Support Donald Trump’s Immigration Policy

    https://www.breitbart.com/immigration/2019/12/16/nyt-columnist-american-snakes-and-vermin-support-donald-trumps-immigration-policy/

    n reality, ordinary Americans’ wealth, security, and status are deeply damaged by the federal government’s policy of inflating the labor supply with roughly 1 million legal immigrants per year, just as 4 million young Americans enter the labor force.

    Immigration is shifting wealth and opportunities from the young to the old, from the heartland to the coasts, the ordinary to the clever, and from wage earners to stockholders. In turn, immigration has reshaped politics so much that Democrats’ 2020 candidates are now competing for Democrats’ voters by offering ever more help to foreign workers to take jobs, houses, and careers from Democrat-voting workers and graduates.

    The economic shift is so vast that few will admit the scale. For example, the 2016 report on immigration by the National Academies of Science buried the admission that immigrants — both legal and illegal — reduce Americans’ wages by flooding the labor market. On clear on page 171 of its report, the panel said: “the current stock of immigrants lowered [Americans’] wages by 5.2 percent.”

    But that NAS report declined to put a dollar figure on that 5.2 percent.

    Well, wages comprise almost 60 percent of the nation’s $21,000 billion economy or roughly $12.5 trillion. In turn. 5.2 percent of $12.5 trillion is $650 billion. So the NAS’s 5.2 percent “immigration tax” caused by legal and illegal immigration adds up to $650 billion per year lost by employees because of competition from lower-cost immigrants.

    The $650 billion lost to the immigration tax does not disappear — roughly 90 percent goes to employers and investors, according to the NAS report. ……

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  13. I wonder how many of the workers are needed due to subsidizes and idiotic federal govt farm programs?

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