THE INTRODUCTION OF THE TEMPORARY AGRICULTURAL LABOR REFORM ACT OF 2005 -- (Extensions of Remarks - September 22, 2005)
HON. BOB GOODLATTE
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2005
Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce, along with my friend and colleague Representative Marion Berry of Arkansas, the Temporary Agricultural Labor Reform Act of 2005, a bi-partisan bill to reform the H-2A guest worker program. As Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, I have traveled across the nation and seen first-hand that the H-2A temporary visa process is not working. I have talked face to face with producers who have to deal with participating in a costly, time-consuming and flawed program. For example, employers have to comply with a lengthy labor certification process that is slow, bureaucratic and frustrating. In addition, they are forced to pay an artificially inflated wage rate. My bill will streamline the cumbersome requirements of the current H-2A program to make it a more viable option for our nation's farmers.
Likewise, as a long-time Member of the House Judiciary Committee, I understand the immigration problems that currently face our country. Illegal immigration penalizes those legal immigrants and citizens who play by the rules. It is estimated that there are over 10 million illegal aliens currently living in the United States. This population grows by over 350,000 each year. Clearly, this situation has reached crisis proportions and cannot be allowed to continue.
Some believe that the only way to reform the guest worker program is by including amnesty provisions and allowing illegal aliens to adjust to Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status. However, this would create the wrong incentive by encouraging foreign nationals to come into the country and break our laws. Amnesty is unfair to those foreign nationals trying to comply with our laws and encourages more people to come into the U.S. illegally with the thought that they, too, will get rewarded for their illegal actions in the future.
My bill would not grant an amnesty. Instead, it would require that anyone wishing to participate in the guest worker program must first return to their home country and apply from there to participate legally. This requirement will help us track who is entering our country and will create an incentive for those currently present illegally to return home and begin the process again while respecting our immigration laws.
In addition, this legislation would address a troublesome wage issue. Employers. are required to pay an inflated wage called the Adverse Effect Wage Rate or AEWR. The AEWR was designed to protect similarly situated domestic workers from being adversely affected by guest workers coming into the country on a seasonal basis and being paid lower wages. However, the shortage of domestic workers in the farm workforce forces employers to hire foreign workers, and thus, is also forcing them to pay an inflated wage. My bill abolishes this unfair wage and creates a prevailing wage standard, under which, all workers are paid the same wage as workers doing similar work in that region.
The facts are simple. Agriculture needs a reliable guest worker program. Workers need access to stable, legal, temporary employment. It is in our national security interest to create a sensible way for workers to come in on a temporary basis, work, and go back to their home countries. My bill addresses problems in the guest worker program, and I look forward to working with Representative Berry and all of the Members of this body to reform this program and make it a more viable process for everyone involved.