The Battle for H2-C Begins
The markup of the bill that would create a revised H2-A program, to be called H2-C, began yesterday in the House Judiciary Committee. The bill, known as the AG Act and sponsored by Bob Goodlatte (R-Va), would create a guest worker program that would allow up to an additional 500,000 non-residents to work year round on American farms and ranchers.
In yesterday's hearing, as reported by Politico, an unusual recess was called in the middle of the contentious markup of the bill. Democratic lawmakers opposed to the bill took up a significant part of the hearing, which started almost 45 minutes behind schedule and ran on for more than two hours of debate. According to Politico, Goodlatte himself was so incensed that he left the hearing room, returning only to vote on amendments.
Opposing Democratic committee members say the bill would hurt both foreign guest-workers and American workers. They state that the bill would eliminate requirements that employers provide transportation and housing and, according to Politico, that Visa holders would also not receive protection from the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The Politico report says that Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) asserted that even if the bill moved out of committee, anyone who thought it would be enacted into law was "living a fantasy."
All of agriculture, and especially the dairy industry, is in need of an effective guest worker program. “We are in need of a way to legalize current undocumented workers and secure legal workers for the future,” says Laurie Fischer, CEO of the American Dairy Coalition. “This is a guest worker program at this point, and not a residency program.”
Further discussion on the bill will resume today.