ATEST Calls on Senate to make Significant Changes to Farm Workforce Modernization Act

WASHINGTON — The Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA, H.R. 1603), as currently constituted, strikes an unacceptable compromise between the pathway to citizenship that all farmworkers deserve, and expansion of an H-2A visa program marked by abuses ranging from gender discrimination and physical/sexual abuse to widespread fraud and forced labor.

Due to the well-documented prevalence of forced labor and human trafficking throughout the H-2A program, ATEST urges the Senate, as it considers the FWMA, to exercise significant caution and to not pass the bill without significant changes that address the foregoing concerns.

By combining expansion of the entire H-2A program with mandatory E-Verify only in agriculture — singling out farm labor as the only job in America for which E-Verify is required — the FWMA in its current form threatens to put U.S. agriculture on an inexorable path to an all-H-2A workforce. This would effectively institutionalize a government-backed policy of an exploitative system of labor recruitment, when what is needed is immigration reform legislation that honors the dignity of farmworkers, respects workers’ rights, and works to combat current abuses.