house resolution no.66

Rep. Brixie offered the following resolution:

A resolution to urge the United States federal government to take action to expand pathways for legal immigration, help Michigan fill legal immigrant positions, and increase access to nonimmigrant work visas.

Whereas, Migrant and seasonal farm workers are vital to Michigan’s agricultural and economic growth. It is estimated that Michigan farmers employ approximately 46,000 migrant and seasonal farm workers during peak season and 10,000 workers during non-peak season; and

Whereas, The H-2A temporary agricultural workers program is a federal program intended to help American farmers fill employment gaps by hiring workers from other countries. Known as the H-2A visa program, it allows farmers who cannot find labor to hire nonimmigrant workers for seasonal or temporary work that lasts no longer than one year. American farmers who want to participate in the program must apply for and obtain temporary labor certification for H-2A workers from the United States Department of Labor. Prospective migrant workers must apply for H-2A visas and admission to work in the United States. United States Citizen and Immigration Services may extend migrant workers’ H-2A classifications for qualifying employment in increments of up to one year for a maximum stay of three years. After three years, nonimmigrant workers must depart and remain outside the United States for an uninterrupted period of three months before seeking readmission as an H-2A nonimmigrant; and

Whereas, There has been a steady increase in applications to the H-2A visa program in recent years. The number of H-2A visa applications has increased 157 percent in the past five years and quadrupled in the last decade. In fiscal year 2022, the Department of Labor certified 371,619 H-2A positions, an increase of 17 percent from fiscal year 2021 and an increase of nearly 100,000 positions from fiscal year 2020. In Michigan, the Great Lakes Ag Labor Services (GLALS) reported a 50 percent increase in the number of new clients requesting administrative support services to utilize the H-2A visa program in 2022; and

Whereas, Michigan farmers rely on the H-2A visa program to address labor shortages. Experts have cited numerous factors for the farm worker labor shortage, including the dwindling rural population spurred by growing opportunities away from the farm. These factors are leaving a void in the workforce that cannot be filled by United States citizens alone; and

Whereas, While the H-2A visa program helps to fill labor shortages, the program has significant flaws that prevent it from effectively achieving its purpose. Instead of having a consistent workforce, farmers are forced to watch their workers repeatedly renew their visas and leave the United States for months at a time. Workers are at higher risk of suffering serious abuses, such as paying exorbitant fees to labor recruiters, being underpaid and overworked, discovering that the jobs they applied for do not exist, and, in some instances, becoming victims of human trafficking. Because employers control workers’ visa statuses, many workers feel powerless to defend and enforce their rights. Expanding pathways to legal immigration would provide employers with a consistent workforce and give workers a mechanism to protect their rights; and

Whereas, The Farm Bill is due for renewal this year. Enacted in 2018, the current Farm Bill provides support, certainty, and stability to our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and forest managers by enhancing farm support programs, improving crop insurance, maintaining disaster programs, and promoting and supporting voluntary conservation. When it debates the Farm Bill this year, Congress has the opportunity to take action to improve the H-2A visa program and expand pathways for legal immigration; and

Whereas, Taking action to expand pathways for legal immigration and work visas is an appropriate way to recognize National Farm Workers Day and the dedication of the hired workforce on America’s farms. Celebrated annually on March 31st, National Farm Workers Day pays tribute to the unsung heroes on America’s farms: the hired workforce that plays a pivotal role in bringing crops to fruition and fresh produce to our tables. Employed on low wages, they work day and night to ensure farmers can grow, maintain, and harvest crops on a large scale; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives, That we urge the United States federal government to take action to expand pathways for legal immigration, help Michigan fill legal immigrant positions, and increase access to nonimmigrant work visas; and be it further

Resolved, That copies of this resolution be transmitted to the President of the United States and the members of the Michigan congressional delegation.