To the Editor:
While various politicians took part in recent publicity stunts along the border that achieved nothing, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill (HR 1603, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act) that could mitigate the migrant crisis.
In response to demands particularly from the dairy and pork industries, the bill would offer H-2A farmworker status to 1 million undocumented farmworkers. (USDA estimates that there are 2.4 million farmworkers residing in the U.S.; another 215,000 foreign workers receive State Department seasonal agricultural workers visas.
Very few of these temporary workers end up over-staying their visas or absconding.)
While I take issue with the bill’s provision that offers legal permanent residence status to undocumented farmworkers despite them having broken U.S immigration law, it would regularize their employment and accord them long-term H-2A status — something the agricultural and food industries have lobbied for, as they need full-time, long-term employees. In short, employment of these indispensable foreign workers would be made legal and subject to American labor law protections.
Once adopted, the White House and our embassies and consulates in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean should emphasize that there will be numerous legitimate job opportunities in the U.S. for those who apply and not seek to migrate illegally.