Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Currently, the federal government can issue H2A visas to foreign nationals who want to do agricultural work in the United States. The workers are not immigrants, because the visas allow them to live and work in the United States only temporarily.
In January 2007, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), along with 30 other cosponsors, introduced a bill in the Senate called the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act (AgJOBS). A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives.
If passed into law, the AgJOBS bill would reform current immigration law for U.S. agriculture in three ways:
- It would make changes to the existing H2A program, including speeding up the process of H2A petitions (requests).
- It would allow undocumented agricultural workers to pay a $100 fine and apply for tamper-proof "blue cards" giving them temporary resident status.
- "Blue card" workers who completed at least five years of agricultural work in the United States, paid taxes during that period, and avoided criminal convictions could apply for "green cards," giving them permanent legal residency status.
Since Congress has not yet voted on AgJOBS, Senator Feinstein introduced a modified version called the Emergency Relief Act of 2008, which included only part two above, the temporary residency option.
Pros and Cons
Supporters of AgJOBS argue that the legislation would help both farm owners and undocumented farm workers. They estimate that 50 percent of all farm workers are undocumented. AgJOBS, therefore, would create a more stable workforce for the employers and a stable food supply for the United States. They cite the support for the bill among employers, labor unions, and both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. Additionally, they argue that AgJOBS would help to ensure fair and humane treatment of farm workers.
Opponents argue that AgJOBS would grant amnesty (forgiveness of a crime) to millions of undocumented immigrants, who entered the United States illegally. Once these workers obtained their green cards, opponents contend, they would not stay in agricultural work, opening the door for another round of undocumented immigrants to come and start the process over again. Opponents argue the bill would create more illegal immigration, not a stable agricultural workforce. They also contend that the blue card process would not improve wages or conditions for farm workers.
- Describe the terms of the AgJOBS bill.
- What are the main reasons for passing the AgJOBS bill? What are the reasons against it?