Bipartisan agreement on need for more farm workers
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans and Democrats said Tuesday that farmers should be allowed to hire foreign workers more easily as Congress reworks U.S. immigration laws. But there was some disagreement on how it should happen.
Lawmakers and witnesses at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing said the visa program that lets farmers hire foreign agricultural workers is so unwieldy it accounts for only a very small percentage of the hundreds of thousands of farm workers hired in the U.S. Half or more of agriculture workers are here illegally, experts agree.
These workers play a critical role to the U.S. economy and food supply, harvesting fruits and vegetables around the country. But growers said their productivity and ability to keep operations in the U.S. is threatened by difficulties ensuring a stable labor supply, and that must change. Meanwhile workers said they should get more protections and that farm workers should have the opportunity to obtain citizenship or at least permanent legal status.
"It is a costly, time-consuming and flawed program," said Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.
"If we are honest we must admit that Congress essentially left farmers with no choice but to hire undocumented workers. Let's not fool ourselves," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.