FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 9, 2021
Contact: Sulma Guzman, email@example.com
Introduction of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act is Monumental
BALTIMORE, MD — Last week, U.S. Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) reintroduced the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, H.R. 1537, a proposal that would provide immigration relief to millions of farmworkers in the U.S. and implement long overdue reforms to the H-2A program. Historically, farmworkers have been paid terribly low wages and afforded minimal worksite protections despite engaging in grueling, dangerous work. With the support of CDM’s Migrant Defense Committee– a group of over a hundred former and current migrant workers — we urge U.S. policymakers to stand with farmworkers and their families and vote in favor of this bill.
Federal administrations have used immigration enforcement to attack immigrant communities while looking to the fundamentally exploitative H-2A program to address labor shortages. In the last fifteen years, the H-2A program has grown five times its size with over 250,000 agricultural jobs being certified for the program in 2019 from about 48,000 in 2005. Unfortunately, protections for migrant workers who embark on the labor migration journey have not been strengthened as the program has grown in size. Our 2020 report, Ripe for Reform: Abuses of Agricultural Workers in the H-2A Visa Program, based on the surveys of 100 recent H-2A migrant workers, revealed that all the workers interviewed experienced at least one serious legal violation of their legal rights. Approximately, 94% faced “three or more serious legal violations”. About 10% of the U.S. farmworker community comes from abroad through the H-2A agricultural visa program.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act includes significant provisions — recruitment transparency, fair housing and transportation, and important anti-discrimination language — that strengthen protections for workers on H-2A visas. Most importantly, the bill also creates a pathway to citizenship for a limited amount of H-2A migrant workers who work in the U.S. to work year after year. After a certain period, H-2A migrant workers could have the opportunity to petition for permanent residency for themselves and their families, whom they are forced to live apart for long work seasons.
We continue to advocate for focused legislative efforts to deliver immigration relief to the 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. and all migrant workers. CDM and the Migrant Defense Committee call on Congress to act and push forward the Farm Workforce Modernization Act as a first step to undo the wrongs that undocumented, H-2A migrant farmworkers and agricultural workers with TPS and DED and their families have long experienced.