Immigration of Agricultural Guest Workers: Policy, Trends, and Legislative Issues [Updated August 23, 2001]   [open pdf - 92KB]

"Proposals to revise U.S. immigration policy on agricultural guest workers are coming from various perspectives, and several major bills have already been introduced in the 107th Congress. Though bills were debated but not enacted in recent Congresses, now reform appears to have more momentum. President George Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox established a Cabinet-level immigration working group that is expected to offer a guest worker program as part of its package. Although the current mechanism for bringing in agricultural guest workers, the H-2A nonimmigrant visa, has experienced a modest surge in recent years, the 28,560 H-2A nonimmigrants admitted in 1999 comprise only a tiny fraction of the 1.2 million farm workers in the United States. While 61% of farm workers in the United States worked in fruit, nut, or vegetable production, a disproportionate number of H-2A workers -- 42% -- worked in tobacco cultivation. States in the southeastern United States account for more than half of all H-2A job certifications. Agricultural employers argue that the H-2A visa in its current form is insufficiently flexible, entails burdensome regulations, and poses potential litigation expenses for employers. They point out that the growing cycle is the actual deadline and that workers must be available when the crops are ready or food costs will rise. Proponents of this view support extensive changes that they believe would increase the speed with which employers could hire foreign workers and reduce the government's ability to delay or block such employment."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL30852
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