Proposed new pathways for non-farm Latin American workers

Mexico, Central America and the U.S. share a transnational labor market for low-skilled workers, but there has never been a comprehensive U.S. policy about managing this labor market. One approach is to introduce large numbers of multi-year visas.

The Migration Policy Institute recommends a long- term solution for temporary non-farm low skilled immigrant workers in the U.S., by revising the H-2B visa program, which is for non-farm labor, and has a cap of only 66,000 visas. Farm labor is covered by H-2A. (Here and here are analyses of H-2B):

The United States and its regional partners have short, medium, and long-term opportunities to leverage the US employment-based immigration system to assist in managing migration from Central America.

Legislatures could create a 1 to 3 year year-round temporary visa for the central Americans to work in specific industries. Lawmakers can also create a broader 1 to 3 year temporary visa for agricultural and non-agricultural workers that could create additional openings for prospective migrants.

The US can create pathways for temporary workers to access permanent residency. Individuals with H1B high skilled temporary visas they have the opportunity to receive sponsorship for a green card but this option does not exist for individuals on H-2B visas. Creating a new temporary to permanent visa or a pathway to green card for individuals with H-2B visas would empower workers to access more jobs.

A third option would be for the US to amend immigration law to allow workers on temporary visas to switch employers after a specific period of time, allowing workers to leave problematic employment relationships without jeopardizing the legal state.

Here is an analysis of the farm worker provisions in proposed 2021 legislation, which has the backing of the farm industry,

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