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Guest worker program got last minute change

Published Feb. 5, 2009 | Discuss this article on Facebook
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Buckeye Farm News 

With a new Congress and president in power, activists say they plan to continue their push for immigration reform.

Former President Bush was a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. The last proposal in 2007 fell one vote short in the Senate for the required two-thirds majority.

Adam Sharp, OFBF’s senior director of legislative and regulatory policy, said he would be surprised if President Obama makes immigration reform one of his first policy priorities, given the state of the economy.

“We haven’t had any indication yet as to when immigration reform will come up on his agenda or on Congress’ agenda,” he said. “We hope, however, that this administration will revisit the issue soon.”

Comprehensive immigration legislation that includes a workable guest-worker program, protection for agriculture employees and fair wages remains a Farm Bureau priority. American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said last month that the United States continues to need a reliable supply of legal workers willing to work in agriculture.

Sharp noted that just days before Bush left office that his administration made changes to the ag guest worker program known as the H-2A. The changes are intended to improve the process for hiring legal foreign agricultural workers when no U.S. workers are available, and strengthen worker protections. The changes also streamlined the guest worker application process and included a new formula for determining wages for migrant workers, said Paul Schlegel, AFBF labor and immigration specialist.

 “What we want is a market-based wage so that you’re paying what customarily the worker would earn in the market,” he said. “We think it goes toward that but we need to look at the details to make sure.”

Schlegel also noted that problems remain with H-2A, including that dairy and other ag industries can’t use ?the program.

 



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