Senate Agriculture Chairman Saxby Chambliss introduced legislation Thursday that provides a guest worker approach to immigration reform.
In comments on the floor, Chambliss says the current avenue for agricultural employers to obtain legal temporary workers from the H-2A program excludes certain ag sectors and is costly, litigious and difficult for many employers to navigate.
His solution, the Agricultural Workforce and Employment Protection Act, increases access to the present H-2A program by broadening eligibility requirements and streamlining the process for obtaining temporary agricultural workers.
The measure would:
- Provide a mechanism for addressing the presence of undocumented agricultural workers in the United States without creating a potential work stoppage on our nation's farms and without providing a new path to citizenship;
- Ensure stringent protections for American workers are in place;
- Crack down on employers who hire illegal workers. If Congress provides employers with a viable migrant worker program to obtain a reliable legal workforce, we should not tolerate and hold accountable employers who hire illegal aliens. Employers who knowingly violate the law by hiring unauthorized workers are hampering America's efforts to secure the border;
- Require the Department of Homeland Security to provide each H2A worker with a tamper and counterfeit-proof document with biometric identifiers and requires the H2A employer to verify the work authorization of all domestic workers;
- Ensure that foreign workers' ties to their country of nationality remain strong, mandates limits to a foreign worker's continuous stay in the US without returning to his/her country of nationality for specified periods, but allows employers to extend work periods as necessary to ensure that crops are planted, cultivated and harvested in a timely manner; and
- Require the U.S. Department of Labor to increase the number of random audits and investigations of program users to ensure compliance with U.S. workplace laws and regulations.