Seasonal labor is a given for the agricultural business and the U.S. has a long history of inviting foreign workers to help fill gaps in farm labor. The H-2A Program is a guest worker program offering temporary status to agricultural workers for 10 months or less. Employers must first show that they have tried and are not able to find U.S. workers to meet their labor needs. The H-2A program has grown rapidly from 139,832 jobs in 2015 to over 242,000 in 2018.
The H-2A program includes some basic requirements to protect workers from negative effects on their wages and working conditions, as well as to protect immigrant workers from exploitation. Despite that, the makeup of the H-2A program, including the dependence of H-2A workers on their employers, is inherently flawed and leads to exploitation and abuse of both foreign and domestic workers.
Even when Congress and other federal agencies have tried to protect workers through labor law requirements they have had little impact. Workers are often afraid to report the abuses as their invitation to work the next season is dependent upon the employer or labor contractor who hired them.
The Department of Labor is currently proposing changes to the H-2A program which loosen the obligations of finding domestic workers, pass more costs on to the workers and diminishes wages. The abuses faced within the agricultural sector are not limited to immigrant farm workers. These changes affect each and everyone of us. We depend on farm workers for the food we eat every day. National Farm Worker Ministries advocates for a permanent solution for workers with temporary status. Increasing the guest worker program is not a solution to labor shortages. As people of faith and conscience who believe in the idea of caring for your neighbor, whoever that is, farm workers are our neighbors and community members and their work should be honored. They literally feed us.
Support farm workers through NFWM current campaigns. Visit the ‘Current Campaigns’ page for more information.
- Download a 1 page document on the H-2A Guest Worker Program
- Purchase the H-2A Guestworker documentary film by making a donation here and enter “DVD Donation” in the memo line or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Read about the specific challenges of the H-2A Guest Worker Program by clicking on the blocks below.
- Watch “Naranjeros” Harvard Law documentary.