H2A Visas – The Effects on U.S. Farm Workers of an Agricultural Guest Worker Program

Recently the Congressional Reserch Service issued a new report titled: “The Effects on U.S. Farm Workers of an Agricultural Guest Worker Program.” Linda Levine the author writes:

Guest worker programs are meant to assure employers (e.g., fruit, vegetable, and horticultural specialty growers) of an adequate supply of labor when and where it is needed while not adding permanent residents to the U.S. population. They include mechanisms such as the H-2A program’s labor certification process to avoid adversely affecting the wages and working conditions of comparable U.S. workers. If changes to the H-2A program or creation of a new agricultural guest worker program led growers to employ many more aliens, the effects of the Bracero program might be instructive: although the 1942-1964 Bracero program succeeded in expanding the farm labor supply, studies estimate that it also harmed domestic farm workers through reduced wages and employment. The magnitudes of these adverse effects might differ today depending upon how much the U.S. farm labor and product markets have changed over time, but their direction likely would be the same.

The report further states, Despite increases in H-2A worker certifications issued by the U.S. Department of Labor in recent years, the number of H-2A workers remains quite small compared to the nearly 1 million hired farm and agricultural service workers employed in 2008.5 Thus, even if the labor certification process has not operated as intended—to protect similarly employed U.S. workers—the H-2A program’s low utilization suggests that its overall impact on the domestic farm labor force has been minimal.

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