So, it’s been a little difficult to post, because we have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. All the skilled labor from Jamaica has now arrived (we are so thankful) and we wait to see what will happen next. We have not actually heard from the Commissioner of Ag and just received an email from Senator Brown’s office yesterday, which I’ll let you read for yourself:
Thank you for contacting me regarding the H-2A visa program. As always, I value your input on all issues and appreciate hearing from you.
As you may know, the H-2A visa is for temporary agricultural workers and allows American agricultural employers to hire foreign workers for full-time temporary or seasonal work on farms in the United States. Before hiring a H-2A worker, the employer must gain certification through the Department of Labor stating that no qualified American workers are available and that the hiring of a foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages of similarly employed Americans. While some foreign worker visas are subject to annual quotas, the H-2A program is not, and issues over 50,000 visas annually.
I understand your concerns over this complex and far-reaching issue. I believe we must take a hard look at our immigration system and reform the process for legal immigration to our country. Recently there have been increased calls to expedite and streamline the H-2A visa process, which many in the agriculture industry complain is arduous and backlogged. As a result, some farms contest that they cannot find enough legal foreign workers to meet their needs. We must work to ensure that guest visa programs are not overused to the detriment of American workers, while also addressing the needs of such a vital American industry.
Again, thank you for sharing your views with me regarding the H-2A visa program. Should you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact me or visit my website at http://www.scottbrown.senate.gov.
Scott P. Brown
United States Senator
I realize this issue is mainly in the hands of the Committee which oversees immigration (all Reps), but it would be nice to actually hear of some real pressure being put on the Representatives who sit on this Committee to DO SOMETHING HELPFUL. The good news is we now have a contact in McGovern’s office…we’ll see how that turns out. Oh how I wish our Governor, Mayor and Commissioner would see the importance of their involvement in these situations in relation to them promoting the Boston Public Market, SNAP, EBT, all the countless nutrition programs…. without the actual food at these markets, scholls, etc, these programs ar mute. It is naive to think that the small-scale, 10 Acre farms in the state, will be able to keep the Greater Boston Area supplied with local produce.
We’ll have to keep on with the fight. I did watch the entire 2 hours of the hearing that the Commissioner published in the post on Facebook, but it was very painful to get through…I took several pages of notes with good intentions of spreading the word, but it was so frustrating and depressing, I gave up on the idea. To summarize, everyone is concerned with the legalization of illegal farm workers, and not with helping the farmers or farm workers who have used the system legally. So, it is very possible we will see illegal workers/undocumented workers, illegal aliens…. get legal status before the H2A program gets any help. Meanwhile, those of us who have followed the law can continue to be tortured.
I hope if they legalize all the “undocumented workers” they will have green cards to all the people who have participated in the H2A program …why should they not be rewarded too?
The great news is everyone is well and their families are doing fine too. Thank you for all your efforts and positive thoughts. We will see what progresses and keep you informed.
PS: We have a pretty good idea of how many letters were sent to various officials and never heard from any of them (except for letter from Brown above) …but we have our workers – so thanks SO much. I just wonder if our voices were actually heard by the officials…….. judging from the Commissioner’s response, I get the feeling they don’t really want to address the problem.