Oct 31, 2017
House Judiciary Committee OKs guestworker, E-Verify bills

On Oct. 25, the House Judiciary Committee approved by a vote of 17-16 a bill to create a new agricultural guestworker program for America’s farmers and ranchers.

H.R. 4092, the Agricultural Guestworker Act (AG Act), authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., replaces the current H-2A guestworker program. The AG Act creates a new H-2C guestworker program designed to meet the needs of the diverse agriculture industry. The program covers year-round employers, like dairies, aquaculture operations, food processors and others. Further, the AG Act allows experienced unauthorized agricultural workers to join the H-2C program and provides more flexibility to American farmers with respect to housing, transportation, and touchback periods, according to the committee.

“Yesterday’s action by the House Judiciary Committee marks a necessary step forward in addressing the labor crisis faced by agriculture across the country and across commodities. We commend Chairman Goodlatte for his leadership on this issue and for shepherding this legislation through his committee,” read a statement from the Agricultural Workforce Coalition (AWC).

“Several amendments adopted during the markup are concerning. The legislative answer for agriculture that must accompany mandatory E-verify requires workable solutions for both our current and future workforce needs. The AWC continues to analyze these changes and will work with Chairman Goodlatte, congressional leadership, and members on both sides of the aisle to ensure that any legislation reaching the House floor provides a reasonable, realistic solution to the labor challenges faced by farmers, ranchers, growers and their workers, so they can continue to feed and clothe American consumers and the world with food and fiber produced in the U.S..”

The AWC brings together organizations representing the diverse needs of agricultural employers across the country. The coalition serves as the unified voice of agriculture in the effort to ensure that America’s farmers, ranchers and growers have access to a stable and secure workforce now and in the future.

“The current agricultural guestworker program is unworkable for farmers, buries them in red tape and excessive costs, and must be replaced,” said Goodlatte. “The House Judiciary Committee today approved the AG Act to replace the broken H-2A program with a reliable, efficient, and fair program and provide American farmers access to a legal, stable supply of workers for seasonal as well as year-round work.

“These changes will help ensure that our meat and produce continue to be grown in America and that our nation’s agricultural industry thrives in the global marketplace. I look forward to continue working with members of Congress on this bill so that farmers can continue growing our food and our economy with the assurance that their labor needs will be met.”

On the same day the committee also approved by a vote of 20-10 the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 3711). This bill, introduced by Congressman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte, and Congressman Ken Calvert, R-Calif., requires U.S. employers to check the work eligibility of all future hires through the E-Verify system.

Created in 1996 and operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), E-Verify checks the social security numbers of newly hired employees against Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security records to help ensure that they are genuinely eligible to work in the U.S. The program quickly confirms nearly 99 percent of work-eligible employees and takes less than two minutes to use. Over 740,000 American employers currently use E-Verify and 83 percent of America’s employers support a mandatory electronic verification system. A summary of key components of the Legal Workforce Act can be found here.

“The Legal Workforce Act saves jobs for American workers at a time when nearly 20 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed,” said Congressman Smith. “Meanwhile, seven million people are working in the United States illegally. By expanding the E-Verify system to all U.S. employers, employers will check the work authorization of new employees to ensure that the jobs only go to Americans and legal workers.”

Click here to view a short video by Congressman Smith explaining how to use E-Verify, or play the video below.


Learn more about the Legal Workforce Act here.

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