The vast majority of farm workers across Illinois, Wisconsin and the United States are foreign-born, and if you are among the more than two-thirds of farm workers who fall into this category, you may have concerns about whether you will be able to continue your employment under the current presidential administration. At Francis Law Center, we have a firm understanding of immigration laws and practices as they relate to employment, and we have helped numerous clients navigate complex employment and visa-related immigration issues.
Last month, per Reuters, a roundtable discussion involving 14 farmers and others with close ties to the industry took place at the White House to address concerns many shared about how immigration enforcement policies would affect their workforces. Many of the concerns involved the H-2A guest worker program, which you may be familiar with if you came to work a short-term job (lasting no longer than 10 months) in the U.S. from another country.
If you entered America with an H-2A visa, your employer is responsible for providing your lodging and food during your term of employment, and he or she also must transport you to and from the country at no cost to you. Only about 10 percent of America’s foreign-born farm workers use the program, however, and one farm industry representative at the roundtable noted this is due, at least in part, to fundamental problems with it.
In particular, the visa program and process is wrought with red tape, and delays often arise that make it impossible for farmers to tend to crops on an appropriate and productive timeline. Because of these problems, many farm employers have little choice but to employ illegal immigrants, many of whom live in constant fear of immigration enforcement or deportation. If you share these fears, know that most of those involved in the roundtable meeting found it largely productive, and government officials reiterated comments that their primary focus was deporting criminals, and not U.S. farm workers. More information about immigration and employment-related immigration issues is available on our website.