Representative Goodlatte Introduces Agricultural Guestworker Act into Congress

578656_barn_and_silo.jpgVirginia Congressman and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte recently introduced his own piece of immigration legislation into the U.S. Congress. This week, Representative Goodlatte introduced the Agricultural Guestworker Act (AGA) which, according to the Representative's website, seeks to provide American farmers with a temporary agricultural workforce via a simple and employer-friendly immigration program. Representative Goodlatte drafted the AGA because he felt that the current immigration reform bill did not sufficiently address the employment needs of American farmers.

Specifically, he stated that the present agricultural guestworker program is underutilized because farmers fear that the program exposes them to expensive litigation and requires them to abide by excessive and confusing regulations. As detailed below, Representative Goodlatte believes his bill addresses these issues by adopting a simpler and more streamlined process that will be easier for farmers to complete.

Simplifying the Hiring Process for American Farmers

The AGA attempts to simplify the hiring process farmers must complete in order to employ a foreign national. The bill would allow a farmer to apply for designation as a registered agricultural employer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If the farmer obtains this designation and agrees to abide by the terms and conditions of the registered agricultural employer program, the farmer can hire foreign nationals who are already in the U.S. without having to file an immigration petition.

However, even if the farmer is required to file an immigration petition, the AGA makes these petitions attestation-based, meaning that the farmer need only promise to meet the program's standards instead of proving that they will do so in advance.

Also, in addition to farmers, American dairies, food processors and other non-seasonal agricultural employers may take advantage of the program.

Protecting Farmers from Litigation

Representative Goodlatte is of the opinion that farmers do not take advantage of the current temporary agricultural worker program because it exposes them to expensive and often frivolous litigation. In order to discourage such litigation, the AGA would allow farmers to require their foreign national workers to agree to binding arbitration and mediation as their legal remedy for employment grievances.

Limits Government Benefits for Agricultural Guestworkers

Under the proposed AGA, foreign nationals working as agricultural guestworkers will not be eligible for the benefits outlined in the federal healthcare bill (often referred to as "Obamacare"). They will also be ineligible for certain tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.

Additionally, agricultural guestworkers will not be able to bring their spouses and children with them to the U.S. unless these family members would also be employed as guestworkers.

The Gee Law Firm is experienced in helping American farmers hire foreign nationals to meet their employment needs. Our attorneys are available to explain immigration law and guide employers through the necessary processes. Contact our office today at 650-293-0270 and speak to a member of our legal team about your case.

Additional Blog Posts

Employment-Based Green Card Waiting Times Explained by USCIS, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, September 29, 2009
Applying for an Immigration DREAM is actually a Complex Process, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, August 16, 2012

Immigration Reform / by Michelle Gee