At the recently concluded 2010 Tobacco Forum, Craig Regelbrugge, Vice President for Governmental Relations & Research with the American Nursery & Landscape Association briefed growers on the current status of immigration reform.
While the use of migrant farm workers is in a state of chaos, Regelbrugge says there is a way out:
“So, the best way out, obviously, if we can get them to act, is literally an act of congress. And the strategic question is can we take the negative energy of the perfect storm I’m describing, H2A in chaos, a largely unauthorized workforce, enforcement running at pace, amok, whatever, can we harness that energy to finally getting congress to act on solving this challenge in a way that makes sense.”
Regelbrugge’s organization has worked diligently on the AGJobs bill; he defines the bill further:
“Basically AgJobs is a piece of legislation that remains alive today, it has two parts. Now, the first part is that it extensive reforms the H2A program, to deal with the issues relating to how the wages are set, relating to the labor protections, relating to how the process works. Why is this? If we reform the program in a balanced way in statute, we tie Hilda Solis’s, or some other Labor Secretary’s hands from doing it their way. The statute basically sets the framework and limits the discretion, which is what we’re being killed with now.”
And the second part:
“The other side of the AgJobs legislation deals with the workforce that is here, and allows experienced farm workers who are otherwise law-abiding, but lack proper status to earn the right to residency over time if they meet a series of conditions. A key condition is remaining in agriculture for at least three to five years. What that does for us is buys us transition time. We know that the future for many industries is going to be the wider use of a reformed H2A program, but we’re not going to get there over night. We hold the view that it’s our best hope going forward, but we’re running out of time.”
And what are the chances, according to Regelbrugge, that something will change soon?
“Legislative scenarios this year; it kind of comes down to this, as we see it. number one, comprehensive happens this year, the second legislative scenario is that a smaller bill, sort of a “down payment” on immigration reform moves. And the third scenario is that nothing happens. Now, if you’re in Vegas and you’re betting on it, the third scenario is probably your safest bet. It’s been that way for years, folks.”
We’ll hear more from Craig Regelbrugge, Vice President for Governmental Relations & Research with the American Nursery & Landscape Association next time on Today’s Topic.
Hear all of Craig Regelbrugge’s informative and enlightening talk on SFNToday.com...
Immigration Reform & Agriculture - part 1 -- click here...
Immigration Reform & Agriculture - part 3 -- click here...