Several U.S. representatives called for major immigration reforms earlier this week. The agriculture industry could face a major crisis if it cannot attract more farm workers. Connoted to the difficulties in attracting farm labor is the debate over illegal immigration. Current Labor Department estimates suggest that nearly half of U.S. farm workers are illegal immigrants.
Current immigration laws allow some foreign nationals to temporarily live and work in the United States. The H-2A visa program, for example, allows foreign nationals to perform temporary and seasonal agricultural work. Currently about 30,000 individuals work in the United States on H-2A visas.
The problem, however, is that 30,000 workers are not enough to meet the demands of the American agricultural industry. Representative Elton Gallegly (R-California), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Immigration stated, “Unlike almost all other occupations, there are simply not enough Americans willing to take on the job of a migrant farm worker.” Gallegly advocated reforming the H-2A visa program to remove “cumbersome regulations” and loosening immigration restrictions to allow more immigrants to work within the U.S.
However, some disagree with Gallegly’s solutions, particularly his claims that American workers cannot or will not meet the needs of the agriculture industry. Steve King (R-Iowa) challenged Gallegly’s proposed immigration reform, claiming that American workers should receive American jobs, particularly in light of current unemployment numbers.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer