Democrats Tie Amnesty to Labor Giveaway to Agriculture Employers

Farmers work at an avocado plantation in El Carmen ranch in the community of Tochimilco, P
Jose Castanares/AFP via Getty Images

The Democrat-led Farm Workforce Modernization Act 0f 2021 offers a flood of cheap labor in agriculture and provides a pathway to citizenship to 1.5 million illegal farm workers.

GOP support for the bill would be a suicide pact, Rosemary Jenks, policy director at NumbersUSA, told Breitbart News.

“It would be a ridiculous short-term view of their own personal self-interest —  they should be looking five years out, 10 years out, but they’re looking at tomorrow and the 2022 election,” she said. “They will be accepting the end of two-party government,” she added

So far, the bill’s lone GOP cosponsor is Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), who owns orchards in Washington state.

In contrast, a similar 2019 bill won support from more than 34 GOP legislators, including Newhouse, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), and Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH).

Eight of the 34 supporters in 2019 did not return to Congress in 2021, including Colorado’s Rep. Scott Tipton, who was defeated in a primary by Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO).

Only two Democrats are listed as cosponsors of the bill with Newhouse, California Democrats Jimmy Panetta and Jim Costa.

The bill is structured as a giveaway to a wide variety of food-industry employers — and it even includes a measure that would cut the wages paid to the next wave of foreign farmworkers who arrive with H-2A work visas.

According to a joint statement from Newhouse and Rep Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), the pro-migration immigration lawyer who chairs the House’s subcommittee on immigration:

American agriculture is desperately in need of a legal, reliable workforce. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a solution – negotiated in good faith by agriculture groups, labor representatives, and Members on both sides of the aisle – that will do just that. As one of only a few farmers in Congress, I understand the invaluable contributions our producers and farmworkers make to our nation’s unparalleled agriculture industry … We must act now to provide certainty to farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers across the country.

Teresa Romero, president of the pro-illegal immigrant organization United Farm Workers, said:

This bipartisan bill would give farm workers and growers what they say they most need and want. [Illegal] Farm workers with work histories would immediately get legal status and win emancipation from pervasive fear so they can be free women and men. Growers would immediately get a legal and stable workforce.

Democrats see the legislation as a pro-immigration bill. A March 3 statement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejoyced:

Today is a happy and historic day, as the Democratic House re-introduces with great pride … the Farm Workforce Modernization Act – ensuring that the immigrants who make America more American can continue to contribute to and enrich our nation … These landmark bills are a testament to this truth: that immigrants are the constant reinvigoration of our nation.

Farm employers are currently able to import an unlimited number of H-2A temporary workers each year. In 2020, employers imported more than 200,000 one-year seasonal H-2As workers, including some skilled machinery operators from South Africa.

Current law also looks away from employers who hire illegal migrants, often via subcontractors. Roughly one million illegals are estimated to work at least part-time in the agriculture sector.

This huge replacement workforce has pushed many Americans out of the agriculture sector, lowered wages, reduced investment in machinery, and reduced spending in many towns.

The Democrats’ amnesty bill would supercharge the population shift from rural areas to towns, said Jenks.

The population shift would include many now-illegal farmworkers, who would move with their families to towns as soon as they get amnesty, she said. The process would first convert the illegals to “Certified Agriculture Workers,” who could buy citizenship by working at sub-par wages for the agriculture sector.

Once existing workers are naturalized, they will flee to better-paid jobs in the cities, she said. The farm companies would then replace their current illegal workforce with many new H-2A workers, at wages below the average wages paid in the rest of the economy. These new workers can then be naturalized, creating a constant cycle.

The proposed Workforce Modernization Act allows farm employers to offer green cards to 40,000 workers — plus their families each year. The dangled offer of citizenship for perhaps 200,000 foreign workers, spouses, and kids each year would encourage more poor foreigners to take the H-2A jobs in place of Americans.

Foreign workers would also be cheaper for agribusinesses because the bill would disconnect H-2A wages from the national economy, roll back housing requirements, and also provide federal funds to help house seasonal migrant workers.

The bill also creates a new category of visa workers who can switch jobs between agriculture employers. Workers in the “Portable H-2A Program” would be able to compete directly against Americans in the agriculture sector. The program would start out with 10,000 workers.

The government-provided foreign labor force would devastate rural towns, Jenks told Breitbart News:

Once you give them amnesty, the [current] farmworkers are going to leave agriculture. So the growers are going to have to replace that labor force. If the borders are open, they’ll just do it with more illegals. But if they have to use E-Verify [to ensure legal hiring], they’ll hire H-2As and pay them less, so all wages across the industry will go down, or at least be stagnant, and the farm communities will basically empty out more than what has already happened. Towns will dry up because local wages for Americans will decline — and the visa workers will send most of their wages back to their home countries.

It will basically be the exacerbation of the rural-to-urban population shift that we’ve already been seeing [nationwide]. Businesses in those [rural] communities will shut down because there won’t be enough consumers. It means that [private-sctor] services will diminish because there won’t be enough consumers. Tax receipts will tank, which is why [government-provided] services will decline. Drug use will increase.

This population shift is no problem for the farm companies who usually favor migrant workers. This is especially important for the small-scale farmers who rely on a small crew of farmhands to bring in the crops according to tight schedules. explained why farmers prefer to hire machine operators from South Africa via the H-2A program instead of from their local communities:

[Mike] Brosnan’s son-in-law, one of his daughters, and his wife work with him on the [South Dakota] farm to grow about 2,500 acres of alfalfa and 5,500 acres of corn, soybeans, and occasionally winter wheat. Each growing season requires extra workers to get the job done.

Over the years, the American workers who responded to Brosnan’s annual “Help Wanted” ads repeatedly moved on to new opportunities, leaving him continually searching for help.

“Generally, I don’t receive any applications from American workers,” Brosnan said. “The South African workers we’ve brought over differ from some of the employees we’ve had in the past in that they are dependable. They always show up on time and hardly complain about anything. They’re here to earn money, and they know how to hustle. There’s always an exception out there, but most of them have a very good work ethic.”

The new bill would also allow canneries, packers, meat processors, and urban greenhouses to import H-2As instead of hiring Americans, illegal migrants, or refugees. In May 2017, the New York Times wrote how imported labor cut Americans wages in Storm Lake, Iowa:

When Dan Smith first went to work at the pork processing plant in Storm Lake in 1980, pretty much the only way to nab that kind of union job was to have a father, an uncle or a brother already there. The pay, he recalled, was $16 an hour, with benefits — enough to own a home, a couple of cars, a camper and a boat, while your wife stayed home with the children.

“It was the best-paying job you could get, 100 percent, if you were unskilled,” said Mr. Smith, now 66, who followed his father through the plant gates.

The union is long gone, and so are most of the white faces of men who once labored in the broiling heat of the killing floor and the icy chill of the production lines. What hasn’t changed much is Mr. Smith’s hourly wage, which is still about $16 an hour, the same as when he started 37 years ago. Had his wages kept up with inflation, he would be earning about $47 an hour.

Employers also use foreign workers to replace the Americans who have turned to drugs amid the lack of decent jobs. The Duluth News Tribune reported in November 2020:

A 2017 poll sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union revealed that 74% of farmers and farm workers say they have been directly affected by the opioid epidemic. Results from the poll also revealed that 3 in 4 farmers said it was easy to access large amounts of opioids without a prescription, and only 1 in 3 rural adults said it would be easy to access addiction treatment.

In contrast, former President Donald Trump’s curbs on foreign labor successfully forced American farmers and meatpackers to raise wages and invest in labor-saving technology.

The agriculture amnesty “is a special interest handout … it’s government-sanctioned serfdom,” said Rob Law, the legislative and regulatory director at the Center for Immigration Studies and former policy chief of Trump’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency. “This immigration bill is far more harmful [to rural communities] than any other provision Congress would ever give our rural communities,” he said, adding:

It completely forecloses on job opportunities for rural Americans. Are they supposed to learn how to code or build solar panels? Their livelihood is in the rural community, and the importation of a permanent foreign workforce will shut them out entirely. The [rural] towns will eventually collapse. The tax base of citizens will be depleted, while the schools, hospitals, and other public facilities will get overrun by the needs of the foreign-born workforce. Americans will leave, further straining the very limited resources in those communities.

The Democratic Party has made it abundantly clear that they are the party of immigration lawlessness, mass legal and illegal immigration, and do not care about the impacts on working Americans. With that being their platform, you would think that every Republican would look very suspiciously upon any immigration proposal that was put forward by the Democrat Party.

The list of GOP legislators who voted for the 2019 agriculture amnesty included:

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV)

Rep. James Baird, (R-IN)

Rep. Michael Bost (R-IL)

Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN), retd.

Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA), retd.

Rep. Thomas Cole (R-OK)

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL)

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)

Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-ID)

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA)

Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), retd.

Rep. David Joyce (R-OH)

Rep. John Katko (R-NY)

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), retd.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, (R-IL)

Rep. Douglas LaMalfa (R-CA)

Rep  David McKinley (R-WV)

Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI), retd.

Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA)

Rep Devin Nunes (R-CA)

Rep. Thomas Reed (R-NY)

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)

Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) retd.

Rep. Michael Simpson (R-ID)

Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA)

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY)

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH)

Rep. Glen Thompson (R-PA)

Rep. Scott Tipton (RCO), replaced by Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO)

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI)

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OH), retd.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK)


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