Washington, D.C. –Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Sanford Bishop, Jr. (D-GA), and Suzan DelBene (D-WA) ) led 98 other Members in a letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services León Rodriguez regarding the administrative breakdown in the timely processing of H-2A agricultural worker program applications and visa petitions. The administrative breakdown is impacting the ability of American ranchers and growers to hire legal seasonal workers in time for planting and harvest, and the Members urge DOL and USCIS to adhere to regulatory requirements to process program applications efficiently and expeditiously:
The Members wrote in the letter:
“As the instability in the labor force grows, so does the use of the H-2A seasonal temporary worker program. While we acknowledge the need for broader improvements to our legal immigration system and temporary visa program, the H-2A program is the sole legal visa program available to production agriculture although it is limited to labor of a ‘temporary or seasonal nature.’ Although still accounting for less than 10 percent of all seasonal farm workers, employment of H-2A workers has nearly tripled in the past five years. Growth in the H-2A program has occurred despite extreme regulatory hurdles, government inefficiencies, and high costs.”
The Members continued:
“The need for a legal and reliable work force is so great that farmers use this program despite these concerns. Unfortunately, regulatory roadblocks create even more complexity. For the past two years, H-2A employers have experienced unacceptable delays in the processing of labor certifications, visa petitions, and interviews for final border crossing and arrival on farms and ranches. Already this spring, farmers from all across the country are seeing significant delays at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Unfortunately, it is also clear that DOL is at times not following the statutory requirement prescribed in law to respond to applications 30 days prior to the farmer’s date of need. These delays are devastating to growers and ranchers that cannot wait to plant, tend, and harvest. DOL must comply with the law, and the failure to comply is unacceptable. This trend leaves growers fearful of a major break-down in the system when peak demand for H-2A workers hits beginning in June.”
The Members continued:
“In view of the current situation, we urge that the agencies expeditiously process agricultural employers’ H-2A applications where possible. Our farms, our economies, and the livelihoods of our constituents depend upon timely application processing and visa issuance in advance of farmers’ dates of need. In accordance with all rules and regulations, we look forward to your response and your plans to increase the efficiency of the H-2A program to supply the agriculture sector with much-needed labor. We look forward to your timely response.”
Click here for the full text of the letter.