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Gallegly to Chair New Hearing on Ag Visa Program with Pre-Determined Conclusion: Deport ‘Em All, Then Replace Them
Washington – California’s agriculture and food production are the envy of the world. The state’s farmers not only help feed the world, but keep prices low and jobs right here in the United States. Yet this great agricultural machine is under assault by one of California’s own members of Congress: Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA), the Chair of the House Subcommittee on Immigration.
As we noted yesterday in our backgrounder, Rep. Gallegly is the most important California Member of Congress dealing with immigration that you’ve never heard of. Gallegly, along with his anti-immigrant cohorts Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Rep. Steve King (R-IA), continues to push a strategy of mass deportation for all the undocumented people here in the nation – no matter the economic toll incurred by California or the U.S. Tomorrow, his subcommittee will hold a hearing on the H-2A visa program and we can already guess how it will proceed – pretend that employer-friendly changes to the H-2A guest worker program would be any sort of reasonable substitute for the thoughtful, realistic, bipartisan approach embodied by AgJOBS. This business-labor compromise legislation includes stronger labor rights for workers, changes to the visa program desired by employers, and a way for undocumented farm workers to earn legal status if they have worked in the agriculture industry. It is the only reasonable and fair way to address the farm labor crisis in America today and keep good jobs and food production right here in the United States.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Rep. Gallegly wants to deport seasoned farm workers who have been here for decades, and replace them with temporary guest workers dependent upon their employer. This would be disastrous for California workers and the economy, and the vitality of the U.S. agriculture industry overall. After pretending to be on the side of workers in previous hearings, it’s quite illuminating that Gallegly is finally showing his true colors. He’s clearly on the side of ineffective solutions and mass deportation, not workers’ rights. Californians and all Americans should be very worried now that Rep. Gallegly is in charge of immigration policy for the U.S. House of Representatives.”
Gallegly’s policy vision, if implemented, would decimate the California and U.S. economy. Our nation’s agriculture industry is already facing a labor crisis, and is heavily reliant on an existing labor force that is comprised mostly of undocumented immigrants. Gallegly’s vision would gut the entire sector, with the impact of increased prices for American consumers and increased outsourcing of our food supply and food security. Given that the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that for every on-farm job in America, there are about 3.1 “upstream” and “downstream” jobs in the nation, the accelerated movement of U.S. agriculture overseas would lead to increased unemployment for Americans as well.
And despite Gallegly’s assertions to the contrary, a revamped H-2A program is not the solution to the farm labor crisis in America today. Gallegly’s goal is to deport seasoned farm workers and replace them with temporary guest workers, under an employer-friendly visa program that diminishes labor rights even further for some of the most vulnerable workers in some of the most dangerous jobs in America. Instead of pressing for their narrow self-interests, Gallegly and his colleagues on the House Immigration Subcommittee should embrace the bipartisan management-labor compromise embodied by AgJOBS, which includes labor rights, visa reforms, and a path to citizenship for undocumented workers. This is the only fair solution to a problem that has spiraled out of control. Sadly, given his track record on recent hearings, it’s unlikely that common sense, pragmatic policies will be emerging from Gallegy’s Immigration Subcommittee.
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