A top conservative in the House of Representatives told NPR Thursday morning that he opposes bipartisan proposals to allow undocumented immigrants to earn a path to citizenship, but would support expanding “a guest-worker program for immigrant-labor-dependent U.S. agriculture” to ensure that farms have a steady stream of foreign labor to fulfill the “dirtiest jobs.”
The Senate’s bipartisan framework for immigration reform includes a separate track for agricultural workers, allowing them to “earn a path to citizenship through a different process under our new agricultural worker program” and lawmakers had previously considered proposals “that would provide agricultural employers with a stable, legal labor force while protecting farmworkers from exploitative working conditions.”
In light of current proposals for earned citizenship, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) is concerned that legalized agricultural workers will take opportunity of their legal status to abandon back-breaking agricultural work and find jobs elsewhere, leaving farmers without a stable stream of labor.
“You’re going to have to have a program that assures those farms and those processing plants that there will be workers,” he says. “Because if you give them legal status, they can work anywhere in the United States — they’re not going to necessarily work at the hardest, toughest, dirtiest jobs.”
Immigration reform, then, could include a compromise that requires agricultural workers to remain in the industry for a pre-determined period of time and a new temporary worker program that ensures a constant supply of farm workers.