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  1. #1
    Senior Member Populist's Avatar
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    (Massive) Overhaul of guest-worker program set

    And while we're distracted with the primaries, GWB is at it again..
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    Overhaul of guest-worker program set

    Bush administration plans changes designed to dramatically increase the number of foreign laborers available for fruit-and-vegetable harvest.
    By Nicole Gaouette, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
    6:08 PM PST, February 5, 2008

    WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration plans Wednesday to announce the most significant overhaul in two decades to the nation's agricultural guest-worker program in a bid to dramatically increase the number of legal foreign laborers available for the fruit-and-vegetable harvest.

    The revised regulations, many months in the works, are aimed at ending the critical farmworker shortage that came as the U.S. government cracked down on illegal border crossings by making it easier for growers to bring foreign workers to the United States.

    After Congress failed to reform the nation's immigration laws last summer, the White House announced a 26-step plan to tackle immigration issues through administrative fixes. Altering the legal farmworker program would mark the most significant achievement to date.

    "There is huge potential here to replace the massive illegal workforce with a legal one," said Leon Sequeira, an assistant secretary at the Department of Labor. The proposed changes to the program, which would relax the rules for the H-2A visas granted to foreign farmworkers, come against a backdrop of growing anger over illegal immigration and tension among the presidential candidates over the contentious issue.

    The new regulations could be a boon to growers, who have long complained that the program is too cumbersome to use, leaving them little choice but to turn to illegal immigrants. But the simplified rules are certain to generate outrage among anti-immigration activists, potential legal challenges from farmworker advocates and calls for Congress to pass broader immigration reform.

    In California, the nation's largest agricultural state, some farmers have plowed rotting crops back into their fields for lack of workers at harvest time. But lawmakers and growers said Tuesday that more than an administrative fix is needed to deal with the chronic labor shortages.

    The proposed changes to the H-2A farmworker program, which would take effect after a 45-day period of public comment, would modify how foreign laborers are paid and housed, and slightly expand the types of industries that can use the program.

    The administration would also ease the standards farmers must now meet to show they have tried to hire U.S. citizens first.

    "The overarching departmental goal is to encourage the use of the H-2A program to provide agricultural employers access to legal workers," said the Labor Department's Sequeira.

    Sequeira noted that of the nation's 1.2 million farmworkers, more than half tell Labor Department surveyors that they are in the U.S. illegally. But many advocates believe the actual percentage is closer to 70%.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was skeptical that the proposed changes would make much difference, noting that only about 2% of farm jobs are filled through the notoriously bureaucratic program. "Growers frequently cannot get labor through the H-2A program when they need it. Simply tweaking regulations can't fix that problem," she said. "I'm afraid that these H2A modifications make a bad situation worse -- by lowering wage rates and undermining existing labor protections for U.S. and foreign farmworkers."

    Feinstein pushed for Congress to pass a farm labor bill that was negotiated over years by worker advocates, industry groups and unions, but failed to move forward this year in the politically fraught uproar surrounding immigration.

    "The key to real reform is AgJOBS. Growers support it. Workers support it. And bipartisan majorities in Congress support it," Feinstein said. "It would provide incentives for a stable, reliable agricultural workforce and provide long-term H2A reform."

    The departments of State, Homeland Security and Agriculture each have a role in the program as well. Both the departments of Labor and Homeland Security focused on making the program easier for growers to use, strengthening worker protections and improving enforcement, but critics questioned how these proposals would actually work.

    "It's going to be a question of execution," said a Senate aide briefed on the changes. The aide expressed concern about some proposals, including a change to the way workers are paid.

    One of the Labor proposals would recommend wages based on the workers' occupation and skill level. "Depending on how its done, it has the potential to lower farm workers wages, potentially significantly," said the aide, who was not authorized to speak on the record. "Historically speaking, differentiating between experience levels can drive down wages for workers."

    Other Homeland Security changes would allow workers a longer period of time to search for a new H-2A job after their current one ends. They would require employers to certify under penalty of perjury that they won't change the terms of work. Homeland Security would create a pilot program to track the exits of H-2A workers.

    Labor's changes would substantially boost fines and penalties for employers who violate program regulations. Growers would also be forbidden from passing along to workers any costs incurred from participating in the program.

    Farmworker advocates described those provisions as promising, but harshly criticized administration proposals to ease regulations concerning U.S. workers, including one that requires growers to go through several steps to show they have tried to hire an American before they can use H-2A workers.

    "These employers routinely violate the law already and we need more law enforcement under the H-2A program, not less," said Bruce Goldstein, of Farmworker Justice, a worker advocacy group affiliated with National Council of La Raza. "They're just looking for some formula to lower wage rates of both U.S. workers and foreign workers. There is no economic or moral justification for these harsh changes."

    But growers singled out the same proposal for praise and cautiously commended the overhaul. "Government is infamous for having different agencies not work together well, not understanding each other's roles and not particularly caring," said Michael Gempler, current president of the National Council of Agriculture Employers. "As a result the consumer suffers, so this is a very valuable thing to do."

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld ... 2335.story
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  2. #2
    Administrator ALIPAC's Avatar
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    So King Bush will provide amnesty to the illegals without the agreement of Congress or the American citizenry.

    W
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  3. #3
    Senior Member LadyStClaire's Avatar
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    This man is really h--- bent on finishing off this country. As if he has not done enough damage to the country and the American people he just keeps going and going and going. He can't leave the White House soon enough for me. Its going to take who ever enters this house behind this idiot a long time to undo all of the wrong that he has done.

  4. #4
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    There is huge potential here to replace the massive illegal workforce with a legal one," said Leon Sequeira, an assistant secretary at the Department of Labor. The proposed changes to the program, which would relax the rules for the H-2A visas granted to foreign farmworkers, come against a backdrop of growing anger over illegal immigration and tension among the presidential candidates over the contentious issue.
    So now we are going to replace the illegals with legal immigrant labor via relaxed H-2A visas. So we still will have the 20-30 million illegals in this country on top of additional "legal" workers.

    Are we now going to deport the illegal's currenly here or is Bush going to grant his grand amnesty before he leaves office.
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