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H-2A: Shedding Some Light on Midnight Regulations

March 16, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas

Farmworker


Photo by *L*u*z*a* lack of inspiration





Just hours after being sworn in as the nation’s first Latina Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis announced that she would suspend the Bush administration midnight regulations of the H-2A program.  Advocates for farm workers have been warning that the regulatory changes would have weakened wage and worker protections for participants in the H2A agricultural temporary worker program, thereby threatening the rights and working conditions of all workers in U.S. agriculture. The New York Times reports,  


The new rules cut the wages that many of these workers will receive and reduced the amount that growers had to reimburse these workers for their travel. They also eased administrative burdens by letting employers simply attest that they had met various program requirements.



Erik Nicholson, a national vice president of the United Farm Workers, applauded Ms. Solis’s decision, calling the Bush rules “some of the worst setbacks for farm workers in decades.” He added, “They meant worse wages and worse housing conditions for these workers and worse discrimination against American workers.”


 


The last-minute changes were an attempt by the departing administration rushing to make its mark and slap a band-aid solution on the program to satisfy certain constituents.  The changes would have not only encouraged more abuse of workers, but it would also have made a flawed program even worse.  Labor Secretary Solis commented announcing the suspension of the new regulations,


 


In December, Ms. Solis, then a California representative, condemned the regulations.  “With many families already burdened by this bad economy,” she said, “our nation cannot afford these guest worker program changes. There is no question that the guest-worker program needs significant overhaul, but slashing wages and reducing basic rights for the most vulnerable workers in our country, especially hardworking Latino farm workers, is not the answer.”


Labor Secretary Proposes Suspending Farm Rules, March 14, 2009


 


The time has come to examine midnight decisions in the light of day. We applaud the Labor Secretary’s swift actions to reverse these ill will H-2A rules and we encourage the Administration to do a thorough review of the past Administration’s immigration policies and programs that provide no real solutions but instead, aggravate the chaotic immigration situation.  An overhaul of our immigration system that puts in place immigration laws that are realistic and enforceable, legalizes an often-exploitable workforce, responds to our labor and economic needs, keeps families together, and upholds our values as a nation will be the only long-term solution to our immigration problems.


 

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