Congressman Bob Goodlatte, a United States Republican has delivered a shot in the arm to the orchard industry associations by taking an unusual initiative. The H-2A guest program is constantly under fire from the Trump administration because it led to a rise in overstayers and undocumented workers.
As an intermediate solution, Bob Goodlatte has introduced what is called as the American Guest Worker Program. This program consists of a different visa, the H-2C which will essentially replace the H-2A visa.
This visa will allow off shore and non-seasonal workers to remain and work on the farms and orchards for longer duration. Their wages will increase by about 15% above the federal minimum wage or match the minimum requirement in the local state. In the end, it will be the higher of the two. But that’s not all.
H-2C will be much better than H-2A
Goodlatte plans to relax the rules for employers as well. The farm or orchard owners would be exempt from providing accommodation or transportation to these workers. The employers will have to employ qualified local workers till the day when the contract begins. They requirement to have them until half of the contract is complete would not apply then.
Present undocumented workers can also benefit from this scheme. But there is a catch. They will have to return to their home countries after their visa expires. And they will have to stay there until their employers can renew their visa or until another opportunity shows up.
Still, this system is better than the extreme right or left solutions that have the potential to be unfair to the workers or employers respectively. Various groups and associations have lauded Bob Goodlatte for this initiative and are eagerly looking forward to the outcome. They believe that it is a great initiative to eliminate the labor shortage that plagues the agriculture industry every year.
Positive developments like these can benefit immigrants as well as employers. Such initiatives should form the backbone of the policy decisions regarding immigration reforms.