Partly in response to pressure from the farm lobby, several Republican Congressmen have introduced legislations in the House that would ease immigration restrictions for foreign workers. The proposals come at a time of intense debate regarding illegal immigration across the United States. Over the past year, Republicans at the federal level have introduced legislation that would crack down on illegal immigration, requiring employers to use E-Verify to determine the citizenship status of potential workers.
Several states, Georgia and Alabama in particular, have introduced similar legislation. These laws have reduced their agricultural labor pool and have thus far cost both states millions of dollars in lost agricultural revenue.
Recently, Lamar Smith of Texas and Dan Lungren of California have proposed legislation that would reform and expand the H2-A Visa program, the current federal work visa program that allows foreign nationals to temporarily reside and work in the U.S. Other Republican representatives from agricultural constituencies have expressed support for these reforms, citing the need for increased labor in their home states.
However, some farmers are critical of these recent proposals. Many see the H2-A program as fundamentally broken. Citing long wait periods and the need to apply months in advance, many believe that it cannot serve as a viable source of farm labor.
Other Republicans are also critical of the suggested reforms, with some citing the need to stabilize the Mexican border before major immigration reform can be achieved.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer