On October 25, the House Judiciary Committee narrowly passed the Agricultural Guest Worker Act (AG Act). By a 17-16 vote, the committee approved a new visa, the H-2C to replace the current H-2B.
From Goodlatte’s press release: the Ag Act will “provide American farmers access to a legal, stable supply of workers for seasonal as well as year-round work.”
The Ag Act is far-reaching. Not only would agriculture workers be eligible, the visa could be issued to year round employers in the dairy, meat processing, and aquaculture. According to Judiciary Committee Chair and the Ag Act’s author, Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), “others” could qualify, too. In all probability, “others” will be generously defined to include those that might only have an indirection connection to ag.
The last thing that the U.S. labor market needs is another employment-based visa to encourage more immigration, and the chain migration it begets. Guest worker bills depress U.S. wages, and are often fraud-ridden.
The advocacy group Farmworker Justice estimates that by the program’s second year as many as two million H-2C visas could be issued. And the pro-immigration, pro-amnesty Economic Policy Center found that under the H-2C’s guidelines, workers would earn only slightly more than the hourly minimum wage, and that many would work only 20 hours a week. Those part-time workers would earn $167 weekly, and $8,674 annually.
Despite their pauper wages, the H-2Cs would have to pay for their own housing, and could be forced into homelessness. EPI concluded that the Ag Act would erode labor standards, depress wages for Americans and legal permanent resident immigrants alike, import poverty, and legalize slavery.