Farmworkers are essential to the food production system in the United States and they have a long history of organizing for dignified working conditions. Despite these efforts, those who put food on our tables often labor long hours, in difficult conditions, for low wages. Many of them are easily exploited by a system that provides little oversight for their safety and leaves undeniable power to their employers. An undocumented farmworker is at even more at risk.
The current administration has responded to the crisis of migration caused by violence in home countries, climate change related drought and extractive US economic policy by placing resources in enforcement to deport people and keep them out in the first place. This new wave of enforcement has created an environment of fear and suspicion, generating an impossible situation for both employers and farmworkers. Farmworkers are afraid to work because of massive ICE raids on workplaces, so fields lay fallow and unharvested crops rot in fields. As people of faith, we come together understanding jubilee. Those who toil so hard deserve basic security, a life free of fear for themselves and their families, and fair compensation for their labor. An immigration system that provides the foundation for these human rights is an important first step.
Therefore, as people of faith, we call on Congress to reject Rep. Goodlatte’s “Securing America’s Future Act of 2018,” HR 4760, which includes the Agricultural Guestworker Act.
On October 25, 2017, the House Judiciary Committee passed Chairman Goodlatte’s “Agricultural Guestworker Act” (AGA), HR 4092, by a vote of 17–16. On January 24, 2018, the AGA was included in a broader anti-immigrant bill introduced by Rep. Goodlatte, the “Securing America’s Future Act of 2018,” HR 4760. The AGA would create an extremely abusive new guest worker program, converting an entire industry—from the farms and ranches to the packing houses and processing plants, from lettuce and grapes to dairy cows and poultry—into a labor force of exploitable temporary guest workers with virtually no workplace protections and no opportunity to join the communities they are helping to feed.
Devastating impact of AGA H.R. 4092:
- Affects workers in agricultural and food processing industries.
- Replaces the H-2A program with the new H-2c visa system that would strip existing worker protections.
- Lowers farmworker wages by slashing required wage rates and protections.
- Allows for withholding of a percentage of worker wages.
- Removes existing transportation and housing requirements.
- Limits government oversight and workers’ ability to redress violations.
- Includes no pathway to citizenship and forces self-deportation with little prospect of return.
Our nation’s farmworkers deserve to work under conditions that protect them and provide access to a fair and just wage. They need to access ways to seek redress for violations. They need to know they are protected from exploitation. And they deserve a real solution that provides a path to legalization. They deserve a pathway that allows them to become full citizens in the communities and country they work so hard to feed. Their deep ties and investments in our communities should be rewarded.
The first step toward a modern agricultural labor system must be to stabilize our current farm labor force through sensible immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for farmworkers and their families. We should respect the valuable role of farmworkers in our agriculture and food systems and ensure that they enjoy the democratic and economic freedoms of this nation. The Agricultural Worker Program Act, another bill, does just that.
You can encourage your lawmakers to support the “Agricultural Worker Program Act of 2017,” S. 1034, introduced by Senator Feinstein, and the companion bill, H.R. 2690 introduced by Rep. Luis Gutierrez. The bills provide a pathway to citizenship for farmworkers who meet specific requirements like long-term employment. Employers who have hired undocumented workers in the past are also protected from civil penalties. These kinds of changes help create a more stable, equitable, and safe working environment for those who labor in fields.
Please call your House of Representatives member to oppose the Goodlatte bill and to support the Agricultural Worker Program Act. Here is a suggested message:
I live in [your State] and I am a constituent of Representative [name of House member]. I am calling to ask Representative X to support a brighter future for the nation’s farmworkers. Farmworkers work hard on our farms and ranches for low wages to put food on our table.
Please oppose the Goodlatte immigration bill, the Securing America’s Future Act, which includes the Goodlatte Agricultural Guestworker Act. Goodlatte’s bill would undermine farmworkers’ wages and working conditions, which already are poor. And it would break up families. I strongly oppose the Goodlatte immigration bill.
I strongly support a path to immigration status for DREAMers and for undocumented farmworkers. To support farmworkers, I wish to call on Representative X to support Representative Guitierrez’s Agricultural Worker Program Act (HR 2690).
To call your member of Congress, call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121 and ask for your member’s office.
To locate your member of the U.S. House of Representatives, go to www.house.gov. On the top right, type in your zip code.