Position of Familias Unidas por la Justica on the Farmworker Modernization Act of 2019.
As Agricultural workers, we recognize the urgency and the need for justice for our community. For many years we have resisted the growing attack on the immigrant and working people who come from the extreme right. Many of our union members have faced arrests and deportations not only in the current Trump administration, but in previous more “friendly” administrations.
In Washington State we are seeing a rapid rise of the H2A program. In the last couple of years, growers along with farm labor contractors have increased the program by more than 300%. This mirrors a national reality in the United States. We have experienced first hand the exploitation that workers who are brought under the H2A visa program have suffered. They experience wage theft, denied medical assistance, poor quality homes, inhumane production standards and even death.
Everyone has a right to dignified work. As a union, we defend the rights of both domestic workers and workers under the H2A visa program. However, we know that the program is being used as a mechanism to silence worker organizing and give even more power to the growers over the lives of farmworkers. We oppose the H2A program and any expansion that has the potential of harming more workers and displacing the local work force.
We should not be giving false hope to workers who face extreme poverty by saying that under the H2A system is the best way to better your life. The U.S. says it believes in family values. The H2a program divides families in order to make record profits for growers. We see the H2A program as a continuation of family separation happening at the border and detention centers. The H2A system is deeply flawed and any expansion is hurtful to farmworkers.
Domestic workers who also seek relief from the daily attacks coming from ICE and a racist system are also in a desperate situation. Every day we worry about going to work and not being able to return home to see our children. We see the chilling effect that happens when ICE is in our community. We all want to work and live in peace without the constant look above our shoulder. We too, want legalization, however, we don’t want to sell out our principles. We believe that we deserve amnesty now without any strings attached where our employer determines whether or not we deserve legalization. We have worked the land for generations and we don’t want to be waiting up to 5 or 10 years to get permission to stay.
Also, we know that farm work is one of the most dangerous professions in the country. We want the workers and their families who have been injured, maimed and traumatized are also included in amnesty.
E-verify as a negotiation tool is a non-starter. We believe it is a trojan horse in future immigration reform negotiations. As workers we will not take part in causing harm to workers from other industries. E-verify has been a way for ICE to raid work sites and to monitor the movement of every person. If this legislation passes, then every agricultural employer will use E-verify. Overnight the agricultural industry will crumble. There will not be enough workers anywhere to do all the work that is required to prop up the industry.
We see that great concessions have been made. Ones that go against our principles in organizing and in human rights. We do not concede to the right or accept deals that give more power to the growers. We deserve better and we do not negotiate our livelihoods so that an exploitative and racist system can remain intact. We do support the workers ability to negotiate on their own behalf. Families Unidas por la Justicia and our members will continue the fight for farmworkers and will stand in solidarity with all the workers of the world. We can not in good consciousness support the Farmworker Modernization Act of 2019.