The farm owners in the US are facing an acute shortage of labor to carry out agricultural activities. Many US nationals previously involved in agriculture have shifted towards other jobs primarily due to better job opportunities, migration to urban areas, a decline in agricultural interest, and education. The industry had relied on undocumented immigrants as labor for a long time to cover up for the lack of US national labor, but now the trend is shifting.
Due to Trump’s strong policies against undocumented immigrants, the farm owners have no choice but to apply for temporary and seasonal workers outside the US to help in their agricultural activities. This presents an excellent opportunity for people who wish to work in the US agricultural industry on a seasonal or temporary basis.
The people who have the necessary skills, experience, and are willing to work on a seasonal or temporary basis in the US agricultural industry must contact an immigration attorney to ease their visa application process. Eric Price is a reputed and successful immigration attorney who is experienced, committed, and willing to help temporary workers in their visa applications. Contact Attorney Eric Price at 855-662-2772 to secure a promising future as a temporary or seasonal worker in the US agriculture industry.
What is the H-2A Visa?
H-2A visa is a temporary worker program that allows agricultural employers to hire workers from other countries on temporary work permits for agricultural jobs that last twelve months or less. However, these workers can apply for a maximum extension of three years, after which they have to return to their home country for at least three months before applying again. To bring in H-2A workers to the US, the agricultural employers must prove that they have tried to find US workers who are willing, able, and available to fulfill their labor needs but to no avail. The H-2A visa program is an excellent program for agricultural employers facing a dire shortage of labor willing and available to work on their farmlands. It provides them an opportunity to overcome their labor shortages temporarily.
The H-2A visa program changed dramatically during Trump’s administration. President Trump staunchly supported and encouraged agricultural employees to seek temporary labor through the H-2A visa program. As a result, the Labor Department approved more than 257,000 H-2A visa applications in 2019, more than a 100% increase from 2014, according to an official report. However, the labor rates for H-2A employees were previously based on wage surveys of agricultural employers. In 2020, the H-2A visa program employees’ wages were increasing rapidly due to the economic forces of supply and demand as the demand for agricultural workers rose while the supply was low. At such times, Trump’s administration passed a bill that froze the wages of H-2A workers at the wage level of 2020 for the next two years. The bill rejected the shift in worker salary based on economic forces and tied it to the national index of worker pay that is generally rising slower than farmworker wages. In conclusion, Trump’s administration encouraged farmworkers to hire H-2A workers while restricting their wage rates.
Current Problems with The System
The current agricultural immigration system is flawed, unregulated, and exploits temporary agricultural workers. The first issue faced by foreign field workers working in the US is that the farm owners do not pay them market-competitive salaries. The US Labor Department must ensure that such workers are paid according to market rates, but it fails to do so. As a result, farm owners get away with exploiting their overseas workers without facing any consequences. The workers are also afraid to speak up because their stay in the US depends on the workers for whom they work, and any complaint may put their stay in the US in jeopardy.
Secondly, the foreign workers are promised a salary, accommodation, food, and transport when they come to the US to work in fields. However, the system does not specify or ensure the quality of their accommodation. A thorough study published on NBC News channel discovered that many farmworkers were treated worse than animals by accommodating them in terrible living quarters with no access to heat, hot water, or even working toilets. They are forced to sleep on floors and are not provided with ample food and clean water. A lack of regulation by the US Labor Department is the likely reason behind these human rights violations in the US farms.
Not only are these temporary workers paid insufficiently and provided with unsatisfactory living conditions, but they are also forced to work inhumanely in the fields. They are at a high exposure to pesticides and heat, are forced to work overtime, and carry out very exhaustive work which can be otherwise mechanized, but farm owners avoid incurring costs on mechanization. These workers are reluctant to complain to the authorities as their employers threaten to end their contract if they do so. There are not enough safeguards in the agriculture immigration system to prevent such exploitations. According to some reports, H-2A violations increased 150% from 2014 to 2019, with 12,000 violations being recorded and nearly 5,000 workers being cheated out of their wages. Moreover, due to the pandemic and the expansion of the H-2A program, many immigrants are being abused and exploited by their employers. Hence, it can be safely concluded that most of the agricultural temporary worker system issues are due to a lack of regulation from the government.
What’s Joe Biden’s Plan for Agriculture Labor Reform?
Joe Biden is aware of all the issues faced by temporary workers in the agriculture industry. He believes that securing adequate, seasonal help in the agricultural sector can be inefficient and difficult to navigate, causing people to avoid or exploit the system, even when jobs remain unfilled. The new government plans to introduce new legislation and ensure strict labor regulation to prevent workforce exploitation. Biden’s plans are bound to reap fruitful results in the long term if they are effectively implemented.
The new president aims to introduce legislation that will allow these temporary workers to become US nationals based on their work history. Those field workers who have worked in the US for several years will be provided legal status. They can apply for a US green card and can ultimately become legal citizens of the US. This compromise between the agricultural sector and farmworkers is bound to help overcome most of the problems currently faced by seasonal workers.
Moreover, the new president also promises strict implementation of labor and safety laws for seasonal farmworkers. He aims to improve the system that will help identify H-2A violations and take necessary actions to secure the right of overseas workers. His strict implementation of labor and safety laws will ensure that seasonal workers are protected against heat exposure and pesticides, humane living conditions, market-competitive wages, and adequate compensation for working overtime in the fields.
What Effect Will Joe Biden’s Plan Have?
Joe Biden’s plan will most likely help overcome the current issues faced by the seasonal farmworkers in the US. A path to citizenship will ensure that these workers are rewarded for their services and serve the agricultural sector better if they do not have to worry about their family overseas. It will also serve as an incentive for foreign farm workers to come to the US to work. As a result, the number of applicants for seasonal farmworkers will increase significantly. This initiative will help in overcoming the current labor shortage in the US agricultural sector.
Moreover, the strict implementation of labor and safety laws concerning foreign seasonal farmworkers will take away most of their grievances. Farm owners in the US have exploited these workers for a long time, and Biden’s initiatives are aimed to prevent any exploitation in the future. Many foreign workers are reluctant to come to the US due to these exploitations and inhumane treatment from the farm owners. Biden’s plan will paint a good picture in the international market, and more farm workers will be willing to work in the US. This initiative will also help in overcoming the current labor shortage in the US agricultural sector.
However, if and when Biden’s plan comes into effect, many farm owners will start employing illegal immigrants as farm workers as they will not be able to exploit foreign workers anymore. They will be forced to provide adequate living facilities and food to seasonal workers who came to work on H-2A. So, to save money, they might hire illegal immigrants who cannot report any exploitations from the fear of deportation. This scenario might negatively affect the H-2A visa program.
What Are the Next Steps?
The next step will be Joe Biden taking the presidential auth in January 2021. Since he has set immigration reforms as the foremost priority of his presidential agenda, it is most likely that reforms in the agricultural sector will be introduced sooner than later. However, his reforms are bound to face opposition from Republican party members in Congress.
Current H-2A visa holders should continue working in the US and apply for a visa extension for the next year as the green cards will be distributed based on the time you served in the US agricultural sector. Potential H-2A visa candidates must keep their necessary documents close and start applying for seasonal work in the US agricultural sector as things will improve under Joe Biden’s leadership.
Contact Attorney Eric Price Today!
Applying for an H-2A visa can be an exhausting and frustrating experience. Moreover, it is necessary to know your legal rights before applying for a temporary work visa in the US. Contact Attorney Eric Price today at 855-662-2772 for a smooth and informed visa application.