Eric Ruark's picture

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  by  Eric Ruark

"Our growers tell us that workers tell them they would rather continue living in the shadows than convert to H-2C. So we can't support a bill that would cause us to lose our workforce... We will work hard to make sure there is no vote until we get a new Congress. We don't know which way Congress will go in the election (to which political party), but we are sure it can't be any worse than it is now." - - Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers

The Western Growers association is working to sabotage the effort to pass a House bill containing E-Verify and new agricultural guest worker program, according to an industry publication. The rest of the agribusiness lobby was on board with the bill, even if they were not happy that agricultural employers would have to use E-Verify to ensure they were only hiring workers authorized to work in the United States. The Western Growers is not only working to kill the deal, they are openly bragging about what they claim has been a successful effort.

We have been informed that the U.S. House of Representatives will NOT vote on legislation next week that would impose mandatory E-Verify (electronic verification of employment eligibility) with no fix for our existing workers,”… “Furthermore, our allies believe this legislation will likely not be voted before the August recess at all, due to our resolve. Those of you who took the time to call members of Congress made the difference. Let us never forget that when we act collectively, with a strong voice, we make real impact.

This is the prime example of how the Western Growers association continues to try to defeat any serious attempt to end illegal immigration. That a lobbying group can dictate to Congress, and hence the American people, that immigration law should go unenforced, is outrageous, but this is a reality American citizens must confront. The Western Growers have close ties to Congressional leaders, most notably Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) who has long supported the exploitation by Western Growers association members of illegal aliens working in the agricultural industry.

The proposed reforms, which were included in Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s (R.-Va.) bill that fell only 20 votes short of passage last month, includes mandatory E-Verify for all U.S. employers. This is a necessary reform to immigration law, but also needed is an end to the of exploitation agricultural workers from Latin America. The main reason California established itself as a “sanctuary state” is due to its political leaders deciding that treating workers humanely is not a priority. Keeping profit margins inflated for Western Growers is the priority.

The Western Growers oppose a provision that would tie the creation of a new H-2C expanded agricultural guest worker program to a requirement that illegal aliens currently working in United States “touch-back” in their home countries in order to be eligible to become authorized workers, but it has made clear its opposition to ever having to use E-Verify.

The current H-2A program allows for unlimited guest workers to perform field labor. Western Growers members oppose H-2A not because they have used the program and found it inefficient, but because it requires them to pay a set wage, and to provide certain amenities, such as livable accommodation and safe and sanitary working conditions for their workers. Western Growers members have chosen to circumvent the law in order to keep the wages and working conditions for their employees sub-standard.

The proposed legislation would allow for a one-year transition to the new H-2C program and would eventually admit up to 1.2 million guest workers. It also expands the definition of agricultural worker to include dairy workers, and it sets aside visas specifically for individuals working in the meat packing industry. It also would make E-Verify mandatory for all U.S. employers, which is the real sticking point for the Western Growers, who want to make sure that Congress does nothing prevent them from hiring unauthorized workers if they so choose. Western Growers members have made explicit their attempt to thwart any and all necessary immigration reforms unless and until they procure a permanent indentured servitude for the foreign-born workers they employ.

Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash) has pushed back against the Western Growers, for which he should be applauded.

It is disappointing that Tom Nassif, who just four years ago said immigration reform cannot wait, is now urging action to be delayed until next Congress...His statement is certainly not helpful for this process and would cost growers a lot of money. Thankfully the speaker and majority leader have given their commitment to bring this bill to the floor and American farmers are very grateful. It is disappointing that Tom Nassif, who just four years ago said immigration reform cannot wait, is now urging action to be delayed until next Congress...His statement is certainly not helpful for this process and would cost growers a lot of money. Thankfully the speaker and majority leader have given their commitment to bring this bill to the floor and American farmers are very grateful.

Newhouse says there will still be a vote. Let’s hope the efforts of the Western Growers to stop necessary immigration reforms fail.

The “shortage” that Western Growers members continually whine about is really the potential shortage of available workers readily exploitable

ERIC RUARK is the Director of Research for NumbersUSA

Updated: Thu, Aug 2nd 2018 @ 2:45pm EDT

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