On the Horizon: Temporary Ag Labor is NOT stealing U.S. Jobs

I heard a lady complain the other day on a website to President Obama about how her husband couldn’t find work but that we were providing employment to people from outside the United States and that it was unfair. It is true about hiring foreign labor but what she didn’t realize or point out is this: the employment is for agriculture work. It’s usually backbreaking and in areas where agriculture is. It’s also seasonal which means it’s not permanent. And it’s only given to foreign workers when no one else will do the work. It’s called H-2A.

An H-2A visa allows a foreign national entry into the U.S. for temporary or seasonal agricultural work. There are several requirements of the employer in regards to this visa. The H-2A temporary agricultural program establishes a means for agricultural employers who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers to bring nonimmigrant foreign workers to the U.S. to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature. Currently in the United States there are about 30,000 temporary agricultural workers under this visa program. All of these workers are supposed to be covered by U.S. wage laws, workers’ compensation and other standards.

Employers anticipating a shortage of agricultural workers and in need must apply at least 45 days before certification is necessary. This includes a requirement of an active effort, including newspaper and radio advertising, to recruit U.S. workers in areas of expected labor supply. Such recruitment must be at least equivalent to that conducted by non-H-2A agricultural employers in the same or similar crops and area. The employer must agree to give preference and engage in active recruitment of U.S. workers. The H-2A certification is valid for up to 364 days. As temporary or seasonal agricultural employment, the work is performed during certain seasons of the year or for a limited time period of less than one year when the employer can show that the need for the foreign worker is truly temporary.

I don’t think the woman’s husband would really have applied for any of these jobs especially since he probably would have had to relocate and it wouldn’t be a professional job. And that’s the problem, U.S. citizens evidently think they are too good to work on a farm. It’s very hard work and most of us prefer cushier jobs indoors where we won’t perspire or break a nail. But we don’t have a problem complaining that these foreign workers are “stealing” U.S. jobs. WRONG! As we’ll see in this week’s video blog, they are leaving their loved ones thousands of miles away and taking the jobs that no one is applying for and then sending their hard earned money back home to their families AND they go back home when the work is done…they don’t stay but they might return the next growing season to do a job that most U.S. citizens just won’t do.

Alisa Hines