Newell: Bipartisan farm bill offers "completely disjointed" approach to immigration reform

Farm "Modernization" act modernizes nothing; huge giveaway to massive ag corporations

Newell Normand
November 27, 2019 - 10:26 am

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is gaining bipartisan momentum on Capitol Hill, but just because it’s a rare bill with support from both Republicans and Democrats doesn’t mean everyone is a fan. Newell invited Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) Government Relations Director RJ Hauman onto the program Tuesday working to explain.

“There’s no shortage of ingenuity in trying to create ways for folks to come into this country for any number of reasons,” Newell began. “I read through the bill yesterday and again this morning and I just have to shake my head. It’s amazing to me that this bill has bipartisan support.”

“That’s our biggest fear here,” Hauman said. “If you look back at when Democrats did their first attempt at amnesty in this past Congress, at the height of our border crisis, back in May when 144,000 people crossed the border, the highest number in 13 years - what did they do? They didn’t address the crisis, they did the American Dream and Promise Act, which would give amnesty to 3 million people. Now what are we doing? As impeachment engulfs Washington, quietly, under the radar, the House Judiciary Committee passes a bill that would give amnesty to 1.5 million illegal alien farmworkers, expand an already flawed guest-worker program, give out 40,000 green cards for ag workers. In exchange for what? Basically nothing. This is a terrible bill, but as you mentioned, it’s bipartisan. The ag industry is very close with Republicans, but they’re in with the Democrats as well. We’re putting out an alarm on this to make sure the American people know what they’re trying to do in Washington on the immigration front.”

“Help me get my head around this. Why is this Congress willing to give all these concessions to this industry and not others that are similarly situated, having difficulty recruiting employees… this bill goes even further with housing, all kinds of different things, even limiting wage fluctuations. They’re going to artificially control wages based on a real-world wage. The crop worker at the lowest level, their wages may actually go down, which means those are here as citizens doing this work, they’re going to get pulled down to. Am I wrong on that?” Newell asked.

“Not at all,” Hauman replied. “This is totally a giveaway to corporate interests. It isn’t helping out the guy who runs a farm down the street by himself and employs a couple workers. This is for the big dairy industry and other things like that. It’s also a reincarnation of past failures. We did this in 1986, when we gave amnesty to a big group of ag workers, they left the fields, they left the ag industry and went and flooded other markets where Americans work. The title of this bill says ‘Modernization,’ but nothing in here modernizes our agricultural workforce. That would require automating many of these jobs, using advanced tech. This doesn’t do anything like that, no new harvesting technologies… it just keeps the reliance on cheap forieng labor.”

“I also did a little research and I tried to find a guaranteed 1% housing loan for anybody,” Newell continued. “This bill provides a 1% loan and grants for constructing new homes for these migrant workers. I can’t find a program for US citizens, working poor that guarantee that,

“This is absolutely unheard of. The agricultural lobbyists have been the in room with members of both parties drafting this thing, and it’s nothing more than a big giveaway. Obviously groups like FAIR that care about enforcement oppose this, but what’s weird is that unions and other groups on the left don’t oppose it as well. Why? Because it will essentially restart 17th century indentured servitude. If you’d been working in ag for under 10 years, you’d have to work 8 more years to get a green card. How can you ask for better conditions or wages when your employer is dangling a green card in front of you? That’s just how they want it. This is just keeping access to cheap forieng labor just how they’ve always wanted it.”

“I just try to compare this to what we are giving our working poor,” Newell concluded. “It just seems to me to be completely disjointed, where there’s an availability of services and benefits for a class of folks that we can’t take advantage of as citizens.”

Hear the entire interview in the player below.

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