House Judiciary Committee Passes Farmworker Amnesty Bill
By Preston Huennekens | FAIR Take | November 2019
On November 21st, the House Judiciary Committee favorably reported the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038), on a party-line vote, 18 to 12. The bill now goes to the full House of Representatives where it may receive a vote. If a vote occurs, it is likely that the House would pass the legislation. The bill has 51 cosponsors, including the support of 24 Republicans.
As previously reported, H.R. 5038 is a massive farmworker amnesty that gives a pathway to citizenship for over 1.5 million illegal aliens. It also makes small and unnecessary changes to the H-2A guestworker program. The bill would make E-Verify mandatory across the agriculture sector, but only after the amnesty and H-2A expansions occurred. This repeats a common pattern of “amnesty first, enforcement later.”
During the markup, Democrats on the committee rejected 11 amendments offered by their Republican colleagues which addressed worker protections, banning aliens with multiple DUI convictions from participation, and anti-fraud protections. They passed only two amendments. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) offered an amendment that would empower the Secretary of Homeland Security to grant certified agricultural worker status (CAW, a new program in the bill) “to an immigrant who is inadmissible or deportable from the United States, or is under a grant of deferred enforced departure, or has temporary protected status.”
This amendment seeks to empower the secretary to grant CAW status to aliens outside the original purview of the bill. Aliens must have worked in agriculture for at least 2 years and be deportable or inadmissible. This amendment clarifies that aliens with Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Enforced Departure that work in agriculture may apply for CAW status. It is unknown how many TPS or DED aliens work in agriculture, but is unlikely given that TPS and DED affords them regular work permits eligible for employment in any field. If they adjusted to the proposed CAW status, they could only work in agriculture.
FAIR continues to oppose the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The bill is a masked attempt at amnesty by the powerful agriculture industry that refuses to invest in labor-saving mechanization or automation. The United States cannot afford to amnesty millions of alien farmworkers with nothing in return but a belated promise to implement E-Verify – by the very agriculture companies that work around the law to hire illegal aliens in the first place.