WEDNESDAY, JUNE 15
REP. LAMAR SMITH’S MANDATORY E-VERIFY PROPOSAL LEADS TO MORE EXPLOITATION OF FARMWORKERS
UFW AND FARMWORKER JUSTICE OPPPOSE E-VERIFY WITHOUT LEGALIZATION
UFW, FARMWORKER JUSTICE ON HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING
The “Legal Workforce Act,” a mandatory E-Verify bill introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), will harm the farmworkers who put food on our tables, according to the United Farm Workers and Farmworker Justice. The bill would require employers, as well as those recruiting and referring job applicants, to check job applicants’ immigration status with a government database but would not offer a constructive solution to the fact that more than one-half of the nation’s seasonal farmworkers are undocumented. The House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement has scheduled a hearing entitled the “Legal Workforce Act” on June 15 at 10 a.m. EST in the Rayburn House Office Building.
Despite his claims about the need for E-Verify, Smith’s bill contains exceptions for agriculture. The bill delays application of E-Verify to agricultural employers for three years; at that point employers would still not be required to verify seasonal workers who had worked for them in the past. These rules and exceptions would lead to further harm. First, under the bill, undocumented farmworkers would feel tied to their employers, and would be reluctant to challenge illegal or unfair conduct for fear of losing their job and the ability to work. Second, the much larger problem is that this bill would allow – indeed, encourage – employers to evade the law by using farm labor contractors to hire workers and thus claim that they don’t employ any farmworkers. Labor contractors are notorious for violating immigration and labor laws. The expansion of the farm labor contracting system will harm the wages and working conditions of all farmworkers, including U.S. workers.
We expect some members of Congress will respond to E-Verify by proposing changes to the H-2A agricultural guestworker program to weaken worker protections and “streamline” the program by removing government oversight, and thereby increase the number of guestworkers. The H-2A program is fundamentally flawed and rife with abuse; more protections for U.S. and foreign workers are needed, not fewer. In addition, H-2A changes would not solve the current challenge in the agricultural labor market: the presence of about one million undocumented workers. Undocumented farmworkers should be given an opportunity to earn legal immigration status and help ensure a productive food system.
“Instead of pursuing this misguided expansion of E-Verify and promoting an immigration policy based on an easy-to-exploit farm labor force, Congress must pass the bipartisan AgJOBS bill, negotiated by the UFW and the nation’s growers, which would assure a prosperous agricultural sector while imposing the rule of law on all parties,” said Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers.
“Rep. Smith’s proposal would deepen problems in the farm labor force by encouraging even more employers to use farm labor contractors to avoid obligations under E-Verify. Farm labor contractors are notorious for poor wages and working conditions,” said Bruce Goldstein, President of Farmworker Justice. He added, “The AgJOBS bill would create a balanced, workable and sensible approach.”
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