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PLNA e-News: Protecting Values In the Nation

New Farm Labor Bill Takes Shape

Wednesday, March 27, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Gregg Robertson
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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY) is floating a bill called the “Helping Labor Personnel (HELP) Farms Act” to provide temporary help to those agricultural operations requiring year-round, rather than seasonal guest workers as the H-2A program currently does. The bill has not yet been introduced, but Congressman Collins is seeking cosponsors and has asked agriculture interest groups for feedback on the draft.

This approach could provide a solution for farmers who need year round guest workers, rather than the seasonal workers provided by the H-2A program. This bill would provide some relief while Congress and the Department of Labor continue to work on a rule to allow H-2A visas to be granted on an annual basis (rather than seasonal).

Application Process

·   Require the Secretary of Homeland Security – in conjunction with the Secretary of State and Labor – to collect applications for temporary resident status and employment authorization for non-seasonal agriculture workers. The sponsor employer must define the nature of the occupation for the Department of Labor to determine if it meets the standards of a non-seasonal agriculture job

·   The U.S. sponsor employer may submit applications on behalf of an alien worker who has been working with the employer for a minimum of two years

·   During the application process, the alien worker is provided a certificate/documentation that he/she is working through the application process and may not be detained/deported due to current immigrant status

·   Alien workers who are currently detained by ICE will be provided the opportunity to apply for this temporary resident status and employment authorization

·   Upon approval of the application, the temporary resident status will be applied to the non-seasonal worker as well as his/her spouse and children (under the age of 21)

·   This application process will be open for 6 months upon enactment of the bill

Protections

·   Sponsor employers are protected from any criminal charges that may be related to his/her workforce

·   While going through the application process – the alien worker is not allowed to be deported (unless the application is not accepted by the Secretary of Homeland Security or is deemed fraudulent)

Restrictions

·   An alien worker will be disqualified from applying for temporary resident status if:

o   He/she is convicted of a felony which resulted in not less than 60 months of incarceration

o   Felony charges including rape, kidnapping, violent assault, sexual assault

o   Suspected of terrorism

Additional Provisions

·   Requires the Department of Labor in two years to modernize the H-2A program and allow non-seasonal agriculture workers to be granted an annual, rather than seasonal, temporary work status and employment authorization


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