Collins introduces bill allowing annual visas for ag workers instead of seasonal ones
On Wednesday, Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) introduced legislation that would provide a short-term, one-time fix, to help the nonseasonal agriculture workforce.
"The Helping Labor Personnel (HELP) Farms Act" provides a solution for farmers across the nation, especially in the dairy industry, while Congress and the Department of Labor continue to modernize the H-2A program and allow visas be granted on an annual basis instead of seasonally.
“Under current law, the H-2A visa program does not help our struggling dairy farms, who live in constant fear of losing their workforce,” Congressman Collins said. “This legislation provides a temporary solution while Congress and the Department of Labor work together to find a bipartisan solution.”
This legislation requires the Secretary of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the Secretary of State and Secretary of Labor, to collect applications for temporary work authorization for nonseasonal agriculture workers. This nonseasonal agriculture workforce must be sponsored by a United States employer who he/she has worked with for at least two years.
Upon approval of the application, the alien worker will be granted work authorization for two years along with his/her spouse and children. Additionally, protections are included for the sponsoring employer to ensure there are no consequences for employing an alien workforce due to an outdated and flawed H-2A visa program.
“There is not a single person representing dairy that does not understand we have a true crisis with the current system we have in place,” Collins added.
An alien worker who currently works in a nonseasonal agriculture occupation may be permitted to apply to this temporary work authorization program so long as they have not been convicted on felony charges of rape, kidnapping violent assault, sexual assault, or suspected of terrorism.
Alien workers who are currently being detained may also be given the opportunity to apply for this program.
A copy of the bill can be found here.
I hope to see Collins propose a permanent solution after presenting an effective band-aid for this issue.