Wednesday, February 6, 2008


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (WWW.DHS.GOV) announced today a series of proposed rule modifications to provide employers with a streamlined hiring process for temporary and seasonal agricultural workers under the H-2A program. “These proposed changes are designed to provide an efficient and secure program for farmers to legally fulfill their need for agricultural workers within the law rather than outside the law,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “This common-sense simplification of H-2A will provide farm employers with a more orderly and timely flow of legal workers, while continuing to protect the rights of laborers and promoting legal and secure methods for determining who is coming into the country.” The proposed modifications to the rule reduce current limitations and certain delays faced by U.S. employers and relax the current limitations on their ability to petition for multiple, unnamed agricultural workers. It extends from 10 to 30 days the time a temporary agricultural worker may remain in the U.S. after the end of employment. The rule also reduces from six to three months the time a temporary agricultural worker must wait outside the U.S. before he or she is eligible reenter the country under H-2A status. Additionally, under the proposed rule H-2A workers who are changing from one H-2A employer to another may begin work with the new petitioning employer before the change is approved by USCIS, provided the new employer participates in USCIS’ E-Verify program. To better ensure the integrity of the H-2A program, and encourage the lawful employment of foreign temporary and seasonal agricultural workers, the proposed rule would: Require an employer attestation regarding the scope of the H-2A employment and the use of recruiters to locate H-2A workers; Crack down on employers and recruiters who impose fees on prospective H-2A workers; Eliminate the ability of employers to file an H-2A petition without an approved temporary labor certification; and Prohibit the approval of H-2A petitions for nationals of countries determined to be consistently refusing or unreasonably delaying repatriation of their nationals. The rule also proposes the establishment of a land-border exit system pilot program. Under the program, H-2A visa holders admitted through a port of entry participating in the program would also depart through a port of entry participating in the program and present upon departure designated biographical information, possibly including biometric identifiers.


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These all sound like good incremental steps towards a more rational program. Is there any reason you can think of to oppose any of them? Will this take an admendment to the INA or just a change in the regs?

Posted by: Matt | Feb 6, 2008 1:41:26 PM

It's an overused metaphor, but 'lipstick on a pig' immediately sprang to mind. Hey, it as an agricultural program after all!

Posted by: Jack | Feb 6, 2008 11:37:28 PM

What's your actual objection, Jack? I can see that some might object to immigrant labor being used at all (this seems a deeply mistaken view to me) and others might object to the limits here. That's a potentially principled view though since all of these changes seem to be for the better that would seem to be a case of the best being the enemy of the better. (Sadly, it seems to me that proponents of a more human immigration system are often willing to sacrifice the better for the sake of an unobtainable best.) What's your substantial disagreement?

Posted by: Matt | Feb 7, 2008 4:09:04 AM

I'm against H-2 on humanitarian and democratic principle (as well as there being no economic necessity) but if we're going to have it, I'm not against trying to make improvements. However, there's only so much you can do when the fundamental principle of the program is the existence of a human being in your society solely for what economic benefit they can provide a private interest with a legal prohibition of ever becoming a participant in a supposedly democratic society. Basically, it's disgusting and embarrassing to have in the U.S.

Posted by: Jack | Feb 8, 2008 1:46:29 AM

Well, given that the actually obtainable alternatives are either reforms of this system (I'd like much larger ones, ones that are obtainable), the status quo, or something worse than this system, and given that any reforms will make those seeking the jobs better off, it doesn't seem to me very "humanitarian" to make would-be temporary workers worse off for the sake of your principles. (I also think the principles here are misguided though that's more than can be defended in a blog comment. My views are somewhat simmilar to, though not the same as, those presented by Howard Chang in his paper, "Liberal Ideals and Political Feasibility: Guest-Worker Programs as Second-Best Policies", avaliable here:

Posted by: Matt | Feb 8, 2008 7:16:10 AM

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