Atlanta, GA – Farmers need all the help they can get if Georgia is to remain the Peach State. Actually, it’s not just the peaches that are in danger, as farmers are looking for migrant workers to help them with vegetable, dairy and meat products as well. This could lead to lower food prices for consumers in Georgia and other states where local produce is exported.
All their hopes are now pinned on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, currently under debate in Congress.
If passed, the bill would allow farmers to hire temporary workers not only in summer or autumn, but all the year around. At the same time, the bill offers more protection to the migrant workers and their families.
Under current legislation, American farmers cannot use the worker visa program, known as the H-2A temporary agricultural program to hire immigrants all the year, as this is only accessible to seasonal employers.
What is the Migrant and Seasonal Agriculture Workers Protections Act?
The bill introduced by Democrat Michael Bennet of Colorado and Republican Mike Crapo of Idaho has been under debate for over a year now. The act was passed twice by the House, but is stuck in the Senate.
The top negotiators are struggling to broker a compromise. The most contended issue is the so-called lawsuit provision. This would allow immigrants to sue their employer for any breach of labor laws. To introduce this provision, the top negotiators call for an expansion of the Migrant and Seasonal Agriculture Workers Protections Act, commonly known as MSPA.
This is one of the many laws establishing labor protections for farm workers under the Labor Department, and it regulates aspects like contracting, payment, record keeping, housing, transportation and other working conditions of farm workers in the U.S.
H2-A visa workers account for 11% of the overall agricultural workforce
The new bill would add an extra layer of protection, allowing workers who believe an employer has violated a portion of the law to file a lawsuit in a federal district court. Until now, the MSPA has specifically excluded H-2A visa workers.
American farmers can use the H-2A visa program if they need workers to perform seasonal or temporary agricultural labor as long as they can prove that they were not able to hire domestic workers.
Even before the pandemic and the current labor force shortages, demand for H2-A visas has been steadily on the rise. At present, H-2A visa migrant workers make up 11% of the overall agricultural workforce.
Better working conditions and fair pay
Democrats want to increase labor protections for farm workers, but Republican lawmakers are split on the issue. Labor advocates say the bill would help protect workers from being shorted on wages and placed in unsafe housing. On the other hand, the American Farm Bureau Federation and other employer groups argue the bill could potentially result in frivolous lawsuits costing producers a lot of money.
The H2-A visa is a non-immigrant visa and does not put foreign workers on a path to citizenship. However, once the foreign national comes into the US legally various opportunities may present themselves. For instance, getting married to a US citizen or legal permanent resident would allow the migrant worker to apply for a Green Card.
If you need help obtaining a temporary migrant worker visa or want to apply for a Green Card in Georgia, schedule an appointment with a trustworthy lawyer at Kuck | Baxter Immigration LLC in Atlanta or their South Georgia office.
365 Northridge Road
Atlanta, GA 30350
Tel : (404) 816-8611
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