Growing enough food to feed everyone in America is a challenge. Farmers have to plant the right amount of crops, water them correctly and protect their hard work from pests. These are very physical tasks, and the people who help grow and harvest food have to work very hard each and every day. The farming industry in Louisiana and across the rest of America rely on undocumented immigrants to take on these jobs. A proposed change to U.S. immigration law could give undocumented farm workers a better opportunity to gain legal status.
The farming industry has a long history of hiring foreign-born workers. In the 1940s alone, millions of Mexican citizens helped care for U.S. farms and played a major role in agriculture. There were also a lot of immigrant farm workers in the 1990s, but their numbers have been decreasing since 2008. Younger Americans are less likely to fill these types of jobs, and agricultural employers cannot replace their older workers who are no longer able to work.
The House of Representatives is considering a bill that would help undocumented farmworkers not only get legal status, but also set them on a path to citizenship. If it is passed, these workers will be able to use a faster and easier application process when applying to the H-2A visa program used by seasonal agricultural workers. More than 196,000 agricultural workers were able to use this program in 2018. As many as 40,000 green cards are also available through the H-2A program every year.
Joining the legal workforce has a lot of benefits, including things like reasonable pay and sick days. If this bill is passed and signed into law, it would make things much easier for undocumented workers who are already working in Louisiana. But changes to U.S. immigration law are not always easy, and right now seasonal agricultural workers will still need to use the current application process. Although it can be complicated, having the right support can help.