Texas Lawmakers Pushes for Immigration Reform

Long a foe of lax immigration laws, Texas Representative Lamar Smith has seemingly shifted his position on immigration, supporting easing restrictions on guest worker programs to allow for increased immigrant labor. Earlier this year, Smith supported increasing regulations on hiring foreign workers and introduced legislation that would require employers to use E-Verify, an electronic system used to verify a potential employee’s immigration status. It seems, however, that Smith has reconsidered some of these stricter views.

Smith’s current legislation would focus on reform made to the guest worker program, the H-2A visa. The bill would ease of series of government regulations for guest workers, including those on transportation and housing, would limit worker’s ability to sue their employers, and would shift the H-2A program from the Department of Labor to the Department of Agriculture in order to streamline visa requests and satisfy the increasing need for farm labor.

Smith’s bill is controversial and is facing opposition on two different fronts. Farmers have charged that the bill does not go far enough and that the H-2A program is fundamentally unable to guarantee the labor that American farms need. Many farmers who do not participate in the work visa program, citing long delays among other complaints, are continuing the call for limited amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Democrats, on the other hand, have argued that the bill goes too far, watering down workers protections while simultaneously cutting wages. The bill, they argue, will serve to increase American unemployment by guaranteeing that farmers hire cheaper immigrant labor.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer