Republican Idaho Senator Craig Supports Immigrant Farm Labor

Notice How Craig's arguments sound suspiciously like the shortage shouting to justify H-1B for white collar professionals


Dear Sir,

Thank you for contacting me about agricultural guest corkers. I appreciate hearing from you. I am a cosponsor of S. 1814, the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act -"AgJOBS". This bill is based upon years of work on farmworker issues by a bipartisan working group in Congress. We are convinced such legislation is absolutely necessary to ensure stability in the farm economy and maintain our safe, dependable food supply.

Unfortunately, this bill has been misrepresented in mailings by some special interest groups. Some attacks have come from left-wing political groups with a vested interest in keeping a status quo filled with massive illegal immigration, bureaucratic interference in the work place, uncertainty in the labor market, and litigation. In addition, some well-intentioned folks have expressed concern about increased immigration. I hope we can set the record straight.

First and foremost, our bill would create a national computerized job bank that would match up willing American workers with agricultural jobs. American citizens should have, and under our bill would have, first claim on American jobs.

Some claim there is no nationwide shortage of farmworkers. However, the growing shortage of legal farmworkers is impossible to dispute. At a time of record-low unemployment and decreased welfare participation, the labor situation is especially severe in agriculture. The General Accounting Office has found at least 37 percent of the farm work force -- or about 600,000 out of 1.6 million workers -- are not legally authorized to work in the United States. Incredibly, this statistic is based upon self-disclosure to government questioners, indicating the shortage of legal workers is still greater.

With passage of the, 1996 immigration law, Congress committed to, and I support, more vigorous enforcement of our borders. This crackdown on illegal immigration already is adding to spot shortages in farm labor, across the country. The job bank in our bill should help meet some of the growing farm labor shortage with American workers. However, if there are not enough willing domestic workers for all the farm jobs available, more will need to be done. Many of these jobs are seasonal, short-term, and distant, which makes them impractical or impossible for many Americans who otherwise would be interested.

That's why our bill would create a one-time program called ""adjustment". Workers who could prove, with employment or government records, that they already had been working in U.S. agriculture for a year before October 27, 1999, would have an opportunity to "adjust" to legal status, if they commit to working another five years exclusively in agriculture. This combination of past qualification, documentation, and future commitment means the number of adjusting workers is likely to be well less than the 500,000 guestimated by some. Meanwhile, in recent years, our overall economy has been creating 500,000 new jobs every few months.

Adjustment is not an "amnesty" program. Amnesty means someone is "home free". A worker would still have to earn adjustment. I have always opposed blanket amnesty proposals.

Adjustment would not increase immigration in the future. It would be a one-time opportunity for farmworkers who already have been living and working here. In other words, it would help keep our farms stable by allowing farmers to keep the workers who already are doing a good job for them. In our hard-pressed farm economy, many farm families could not survive the additional blow of losing much of their workforce unexpectedly.

Adjustment would be good for all workers. The illegal, often inhumane, smuggling trade carried on by "coyotes" will be cut down and lives will be saved. Those working legally will have the full protection of the law, including fair wages and safe working conditions. This also helps American workers, by reducing the economic incentives to import and hire illegal immigrants.

Adjustment would mean precious resources could be focused on prevention of illegal immigration at our borders, instead of government "raids" on our farms, many of which do not even know they hired workers on the basis o counterfeit identification.

Last but not least, the reliability of our food supply is at issue. In many places around our country, crops already have gone unplanted or unharvested because of the shortage of legal farm labor. If this trend continues, Americans would have no choice but to import more of their food, much of which would be of uncertain origin and quality.

American workers and farmers face a time of transition. They are resilient and creative and I have no doubt that, in the long run, they will meet the challenges of the future. Our AgJOBS bill would ease that transition and help both. I hope I have addressed your concerns. Please feel free to keep in Much if you have any additional thoughts or questions.






WASHINGTON, DC 20510-1305

Republican Policy

January 12, 2000