For more than a century, agriculture has been an entry point into the labor market for immigrants in the United States. Presently, close to three-fourths of all U.S. hired farm workers are immigrants, most of them unauthorized. Their unauthorized legal status, low wages, and an inconsistent work schedule contribute to a precarious economic state.
In a move that reflects the growing agricultural labor shortage across the country, Kansas Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman has decided to seek a federal waiver that would allow Kansas dairies and feedlots desperate for workers to hire undocumented immigrants.
The proposal is likely to stir controversy in the Kansas Legislature and divide the Republican majority, some of whose members are pursuing proposals to crack down on illegal immigration. Representatives of the business coalition, which includes agriculture groups and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, provided a draft copy of their proposed legislation to The Associated Press ahead of its formal introduction in the House and Senate.
Supporters of the proposal acknowledge they’re trying to protect industries heavily reliant on laborers, particularly agriculture. But state officials and backers don’t have any hard numbers for how many jobs are in danger of going unfilled. Kansas has an estimated 45,000 illegal-immigrant workers.
Details are expected to emerge this week about a bill establishing the outline of a state-managed worker program. Operating in cooperation with the federal government, it would link sponsor companies with undocumented immigrants who have been in Kansas a minimum of five years and have no criminal background. One potential candidate would be a person who entered Kansas on a visa that expired years ago.
We will be following this proposal closely and keep our readers informed. If passed the Bill will create a new playing filed for Illegal immigrant workers that are much needed, especially in fields like Agriculture and Construction.