Jan 29, 2018
Ag labor issues, E-Verify, crop up in immigration reform proposals

On Jan. 25, the White House released a set of immigration reform principles that are intended to push Congress to act on the immigration issue. Included on the list, were the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) issue, funding for border security including the administration’s desire for a border wall and changes to family-based immigration, which some refer to as chain migration.

“The agriculture industry has remained engaged on this issue as it may present an opportunity to either solve or worsen the ag labor crisis that is building across the country,” the National Potato Council wrote in an email. The House Judiciary Committee has put forward a bill (HR 4092) that seeks to create a new guest worker program to replace the existing H-2A program.

That bill contains some positive provisions, the NPC said, such as moving administration of the new program to the Department of Agriculture from the Department of Labor and also creating a more market-based wage calculation. However, the group warned, the bill also caps the program at only 25-30 percent of the agriculture industry’s overall need.

There is also talk about the possibility of including mandatory E-Verify with an agriculture exemption in a larger bill. That action without a workable agriculture program preceding it would create economic chaos for the agriculture industry, according to the NPC.

Kam Quarles

“We’ve been very clear with legislators that mandatory E-Verify with an agriculture exemption is not a solution,” said Kam Quarles, NPC vice president of public policy. “It actually makes the situation much worse.”

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