Farm groups want H-2A, H-2B workers exempt from immigration order
As President Donald Trump said Tuesday he would issue an executive order barring immigration for 60 days, groups called for H-2A and H-2B workers to be exempt.
Trump tweeted Monday evening that he would stop immigration due to the coronavirus outbreak, and on Tuesday he announced that he is issuing an executive order that will temporarily suspend immigration for people seeking permanent residency and green cards to the U.S. for 60 days.
Trump said the order will only apply to individuals seeking permanent residency, which would presumably exempt farmworkers coming in under the H-2A program and others in related fields coming in under the H-2B program. But in responding to a reporter’s question, Trump also said that he may issue a “secondary order” creating further restrictions.
In a letter, National Cotton for Farmers Cooperatives President and CEO Chuck Conner told Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue:
“While we strongly support efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus, last night’s announcement from President Trump has created concerns for many in agriculture.
“Not only will the loss of H-2A workers negatively impact the farmer, but an entire chain of workers, who are mostly American, throughout agriculture. In fact, every farmworker engaged in labor-intensive agriculture support two to three off-farm jobs throughout the sector,” NCFC stated. “The food and agriculture sector, responsible for food manufacturing, processing, and storage facilities, accounts for one-fifth of the nation’s economic activity and has been designated a ‘Critical Infrastructure Sector’ by DHS.”
Meanwhile, the H-2B Coalition, which represents nonagricultural workers, said, “We are committed to hiring any willing and able American workers before turning to H-2B workers, and businesses who currently need workers have stepped up their recruitment of American workers, but due to factors such as the seasonality, nature of the work and geography, there are times when supplemental H-2B workers are still needed. For these reasons, we urge you to exempt H-2B workers from your upcoming Executive Order.”
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The House Agriculture Committee on Thursday passed five bills including the Cattle Contract Library Act of 2021.