In January, a new President and Congress took office promising a repudiation of the prior administration's dehumanizing attacks on immigrants. But early momentum – including a moratorium on deportations and the introduction of a bill to provide status to all undocumented immigrants – has faltered. Just as happens every time discussion of immigration reform begins, politicians and the media have diverted attention to a "crisis" on the southern border framed to stoke xenophobic fears. And in Washington, the House of Representatives has passed a "reform" bill originally crafted under the Trump Administration: the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA).
The FWMA masquerades as immigration reform while failing immigrant farmworkers at every turn. While the bill would provide a pathway to status for some undocumented farmworkers, it requires that beneficiaries continue working in agriculture for up to 8 years to qualify and excludes many workers, among them those who cannot continue working due to injury. In exchange for this limited and lengthy pathway to protection, the bill mandates that agricultural employers to use E-Verify, forcing unprotected farmworkers off the books and making them more vulnerable to abuse. Finally, the bill expands the flawed H-2A agricultural visa program without providing necessary oversight or adequate protections.
The FWMA takes more interest in providing low-cost labor for Big Ag than in protecting the human rights of farmworkers. If passed, the law would create a captive workforce unable to speak out against abuse, organize for better conditions, or take action to defend their rights, because their ability to remain in the country relies on their continued employment. This outcome benefits an agricultural system that has always been predicated on cheap and captive labor; it does not benefit farmworkers. And farmworkers deserve better.
Migrant Justice joins many farmworker and immigrant rights organizations around the country in opposing the harmful Farm Workforce Modernization Act. Learn more about the bill and write to you Senators to tell them to oppose the FWMA!