Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bush Plans To Overhaul Temporary Worker Program

What Congress failed to do legislatively, President George W. Bush plans to do by changing the regulations that govern the temporary worker program -- the H-2A visas. These are generally given for migrant farmworkers to be here legally and to work legally. The rules are suppose to protect the migrant workers, but the execution of the rules has been spotty and has led to many complaints of worker abuse.

The comprehensive reform that failed in the Senate last summer include a title called "the AgJobs Bill" meant to reform the abuse and streamline the program. After the defeat of the grand compromise it was hoped the AgJobs Bill would be revived. The anti-immigrant sentiment and the ICE raids had discouraged many farmworkers from crossing the border. So there emerge a shartoge of such workers that there reports of fields and orchards going unpicked. (Note that most of the picker -- 70% by one estimate -- were undocumented.)

The Bush administration would relax the requirements for bringing in H-2A -- e.g., relaxing the search for American workers first-- and broaden the kinds of work they can do. This is likely to arouse the GOP right who have made exclusionary measures an article of Republican faith. But immigrant and farmworker advocates look warily at the initiative. Long experience with the shoddy administration of the H-2A program makes them wonder whether the relaxed regulations might not be solely for the benefit of the employers. (See LA Times article.)

No comments: