Representative Bob Goodlatte’s farm bill is being pushed by conservatives. It would create a new class of guest worker for farms, require employers to use e-Verify, and require all illegal workers to “touch back” outside the U.S. before being eligible for the new guest worker visa. I have described the bill here.
According to the Dept of Agriculture, 47% of the country’s farm workforce is unauthorized to work.
In a news article in March, the opposition by farmers was manifest. “We’re having constant communications with Republicans in Congress about this,” said Tom Nassif, president and CEO of the Western Growers Association, headquartered in Irvine, Calif. Like other industry groups, Nassif says his members support an overhaul of the H-2A visa program for seasonal workers that the Goodlatte bill proposes. But the legislation creates more problems, he said, including the so-called “touchback” provision requiring current workers to return to their legal country of residence.
California’s agricultural sector has a particularly high reliance on seasonal workers and those in the country illegally. “We don’t believe, after talking to our farmers, that people here with false documents are going to raise their hand … and touch back,” said Nassif. Combined with the threat of mandatory e-verify checks, California farmers fear those workers will simply flee, and “then we lose our entire workforce,” he said.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s congressional district includes most of Kern County, the fourth largest farm county in the country.