Proposed Change in the Guest Worker Program

December 22, 2008 2:10:59 PM PST
A push by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to overhaul a guest worker program isn't impressing local growers.Some say anything short of immigration reform is doomed to fail.

During the peak harvest season California farms employ as many as 450-thousand people. Its estimated 70-percent are undocumented.

President Bush is calling for a streamlined process for foreign workers who enter the U.S. under the H2A program.

Barry Bedwell of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League says the plan falls short in meeting the needs of the Valley.

Barry Bedwell: "The H2A program when you look at the numbers it really points out to what an administrative and bureaucratic nightmare it is. Less than two-percent of the Ag work force in the United States uses H2A."

Farmers say the H2A program never caught on here because it doesn't offer workers flexibility to harvest a variety of crops.

"To my knowledge within the Central Valley we don't have any users, particularly because of the highly perishable nature of our crop."

The change would ease some wage requirements.

The president of the United Farm Workers says it would "result in lower wages and a worsening of conditions that currently exist."

Arturo Rodriguez, UFW President: "If they come here and they demonstrate they're here to work hard, to make a contribution to our society, to improve the economics and surely in this particular to give us the best food ever harvested in the entire world, then we should treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve and give them legal status."

Rodriguez is holding out hope an Ag-jobs bill which includes a path to legal status can be revived.

Ag-jobs was ultimately dropped from the farm bill.

Discussion on immigration reform was put on the back-burner once the presidential campaign season began.


Load Comments