Republicans within the Home and Senate are questioning reported processing delays within the H-2A agricultural employee visa program — and asking whether it is associated to feedback made by a Labor Division official they mentioned might present “bias” towards the controversial program.
On Thursday, Committee on Training and the Workforce Chairman Virginia Foxx and Workforce Safety Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Kiley wrote to Appearing Labor Secretary Julie Su elevating issues that employers making use of for labor certifications for H-2A visas — that are for agricultural staff — are going through “substantial delays.”
“For a lot of farmers and ranchers, particularly these with perishable crops, well timed processing of functions at DOL and well timed arrivals of visitor staff are essential. The planting and harvesting home windows supply solely a brief period of time to fulfill the season’s wants. Our understanding is that this worsening downside is brought on by pointless and avoidable delays at DOL,” they are saying.
The lawmakers word a letter despatched to Su earlier this month from Sens. Invoice Cassidy, R-La., Rating member of the Senate Well being, Training, Labor and Pensions Committee, which famous feedback by a regional agriculture enforcement coordinator at DOL’s Wage and Hour Division in a information article.
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Within the article for PRISM, Mike Rios is quoted as saying that the H-2A program “actually is the acquisition of people to carry out tough work below horrible situations, typically together with subhuman dwelling situations.”
Rios is additionally quoted as saying: “You may throw a rock and hit a violation within the agricultural business.”
The feedback are a repeat of long-standing issues that critics of this system have expressed, arguing that non permanent visa packages are sometimes accompanied by exploitation and abuse. Supporters of this system say they’re wanted to sort out employee shortages.
Foxx and Kiley say the feedback are “disturbing and puzzling” because the legal guidelines and laws DOL enforces are supposed to stop such situations — together with these governing wages should pay those that are employed below this system.
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“The clear bias towards farmers expressed in Mr. Rios’ quotes raises the query of whether or not DOL could also be purposely delaying the processing of H-2A labor certification functions due to hostility to the H-2A program and to the agricultural employers who take part in this system,” they write.
Their feedback echo these of the letter despatched by Sen. Cassidy.
“If the officers tasked with imposing the H-2A program imagine the system quantities to ‘wage theft’ and ‘the acquisition of people to carry out tough work below horrible situations,’ then both DOL is at present unable to competently implement the legislation or these statements replicate a startling bias towards American farmers who use this system,” he wrote.
Foxx and Kiley ask the DOL for information on H-2A certifications, the explanation for delays in processing, steps it has taken to handle the delays and any extra steps it has deliberate.
In a press release to Fox Information Digital, a spokesperson mentioned that the views referenced within the letter “don’t replicate these of the Division and we’re dedicated to a good and unbiased enforcement of the legislation.”
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“The H-2A visa program performs an vital function in our financial system by offering a significant workforce for the important agricultural business when U.S. staff usually are not accessible,” the spokesperson mentioned.
“The Division of Labor’s function below the H-2A program is to successfully implement this program, which incorporates defending employee’s rights and making certain a level-playing area for law-abiding employers,” the spokesperson mentioned. “To be clear: staff ought to at all times be handled with dignity and respect. H-2A consists of employee safety provisions which are enforced by the Division of Labor to fight towards exploitative labor practices.”
The spokesperson went on to say that the company is “laser-focused” on making certain that functions are processed in a well timed method “in order that eligible U.S. employers are capable of rent H-2A staff for agricultural wants when U.S. staff usually are not accessible.”