Just introduced Senate legislation to reform the H-2A Ag guest worker program after decades of trying, faces slim odds as another lame-duck Congress winds down.
More than 350 food, farm and farm worker groups came together on the bill sponsored by Colorado Democrat Michael Bennett. Bennett; “Increases the number of H-2A visas and opens the program up to year-round jobs for the first time ever, it creates wage certainty for farmers to protect them from harmful swings in labor costs.”
Saving farmers Bennett claims, 23 billion over 12 years or two billion more than a House-passed version, but still not winning over Republicans.
Bennett; “It is disappointing that we haven’t been able to get a Republican in the Senate to act in a bipartisan way, the way the House Republicans that were here this morning were able to do…but, hopes springs eternal, because time is not our ally, here.”
Not with a House GOP majority taking power in January.
So, groups like United Farm Workers led by Teresa Romero have weighed in; “This legislation creates a temporary, renewable legal status for farm workers, who are already here in this short-term, with the opportunity and option to earn permanent legal status, several years into the future.”
Many Republicans call that amnesty, ahead of securing the southern border. Senator Bennett disagrees; “That’s not amnesty, that’s a recognition that anybody who’s spent decades working to feed America, should have the opportunity to apply for lawful status.”
But legislatively, it’s a last-minute, ‘hail Mary’ according to Bennett; “I have assurance from Senator Schumer that if we’re able to get some Republican votes, we can pass this as part of the omnibus. The difficulty we’ve had is disentangling the politics…and I think we have to set that politics aside, if we’re going to do the right thing for American agriculture.”
Politics complicated by even more politics in passing a giant omnibus budget on Christmas eve.