Letter to the editor: Farm workers & citizenship
The article “Pennsylvania congressman aims to expand immigrant worker program to dairy farms” (March 19, TribLIVE), which describes the bill to extend H-2A agricultural guest-worker visas to year-round jobs on dairy farms, does not discuss the downsides of the proposal nor a reasonable alternative.
The H-2A temporary foreign agricultural worker program is premised on the idea that seasonal jobs may be especially difficult to fill because many workers prefer year-round jobs and the higher incomes they may yield. Dairy farm owners with year-round jobs should attract and retain workers like everyone else is expected to do: offer decent wages, hours and working conditions.
As to immigration policy, currently many dairy farm workers are undocumented immigrants; some have been in the United States contributing to the agricultural sector for many years. They should be offered the opportunity for immigration status — a “green card” — and a path to U.S. citizenship.
If there is an actual shortage of labor for year-round dairy jobs, then foreign citizens should be offered the opportunity for a true immigration status, keeping their families together and striving to achieve the American dream. The H-2A visa program is inherently abusive and antidemocratic. There is no valid justification for forcing dairy farm workers into a temporary work visa program and denying them the economic and democratic freedoms that this nation of immigrants cherishes.
The writer is president of Farmworker Justice (www.farmworkerjustice.org).