Yesterday House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) unveiled the first of his immigration bills during a press conference in Washington D.C. The proposal would create a new agricultural guest worker program that would result in massive job losses for U.S. workers by transforming the farm labor force into a system of temporary workers with no meaningful protections or rights. Besides not including a new immigration process that would allow farm workers who feed us every day to legalize their status and earn permanent legal residence over time, Goodlatte’s proposed immigration reform plan would eliminate many long-standing worker protections and slash wages for foreign and domestic workers.

BACKGROUND: The comprehensive immigration reform proposal currently in the senate includes the agricultural provisions negotiated by the United Farm Workers and major grower associations and fulfills the urgent need for an earned legalization program for farm workers. It would also help stabilize the farm labor workforce through incentives for immigrants to continue working in U.S. agriculture.

Goodlatte proposes replacing the existing H-2A agricultural temporary worker program with a new H-2C program. The H-2C would deprive U.S. farm workers of jobs by minimizing the recruitment obligations of employers, slashing wages and withholding 10 percent of workers’ wages. It would also minimize government oversight, limit workers’ access to judicial relief and legal assistance, and reduce temporary workers’ minimum-work guarantee. Further it would eliminate the requirement that employers provide housing for temporary workers and U.S. workers who travel to the worksite and eliminate travel-expense reimbursement for temporary workers.

In addition, Goodlatte’s proposal would not provide a roadmap to citizenship for the current farm worker labor force and would only allow them to apply for temporary worker visas. In poll after poll, Americans voters, especially Latinos, have overwhelmingly expressed support for a roadmap to citizenship for new Americans – like farm workers – who contribute to our country.