Legislative Director for the
American Council for Immigration Reform
Before the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims
of the Judiciary Committee
United States House of Representatives
June 15, 2000
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
My name is William Buchanan. I am testifying on behalf of the American Council for Immigration Reform. Thank you for the opportunity to testify regarding H. R.
4548, The Agriculture Opportunities Act.
H.R. 4548 Is Not Justified.
There is no shortage of agricultural workers in America and therefore no call for yet another guestworker program. That the circumstances of farm workers in
America are poor and getting worse is powerful evidence of this.(1)
Between 1989 and 1998 the average wage of farm workers declined from $6.89 to $6.18 per hour adjusted for inflation (NAWS, page 33).
Between 1990-92 and 1996-98 the average period of time farm workers worked in agriculture declined from 26 weeks to 24 weeks per year (NAWS, page 24).
Incomes of three out of five farm worker families are below the poverty line (NAWS, page 39).
Is it any wonder that it is hard to get Americans to do this kind of work? It is no wonder that some farm interests prefer guestworkers, however, and would like
Thanks to the constant draw on uneducated foreign workers, 58% of farm workers are functionally or totally illiterate which means they cannot read material that
might convey some idea of their rights (NAWS, page 16).
Only 5% of farm workers have employer-provided health insurance (NAWS, page 36).
Guestworkers are not eligible for Social Security which eliminates the expense of matching the FICA tax and the inconvenience of withholding that tax.
It is our understanding that 99% of H-2A certifications are approved. The Department of Labor is notoriously underfunded in this area. Therefore we can expect the
very same "rubber stamp" to be used for H-2C certifications as is used for H-2As (and, dare we mention, H-1Bs).
H-2C lacks a Minimum Work period. The H-2A guestworker is guaranteed work for three-quarters of the work days in the stated period of employment. This
gives the worker some idea of how much he/she will earn and discourages the over-recruitment an employer might otherwise attempt in an effort to drive down
Worker protections built into the 1998 legislation expanding the H-1B program were never implemented and, if recent oversight hearings by this subcommittee are
any indication, never will be. Why should we believe, then, that worker protections in this bill would be implemented?
H.R. 4548 will promote illegal immigration.
It is claimed that this H-2C program will reduce illegal immigration by giving certain farmers a large supply of legal labor. The bill does contain a whole series of
controls, but fails where all such efforts fail. The problem is implicit in proposed INA Sec. 218A(a)(3) "Abandonment of Employment." This section would require
employers to report, and the Attorney General to catch and remove, H-2Cs who "prematurely abandon ... employment." We wish the A-G good luck in this (futile)
effort, but it is also noticeable that there is no arrangement for escorting home the guestworker who voluntarily terminates his/her employment or the compliant
worker who completes his contract. Are they expected to return home of their own accord?
Guestworker programs don't prevent illegal immigration, they promote it. It is estimated that 40% of all illegal aliens are visa overstays. Two new incentives make
H-2C visas even more attractive to guestworkers bent on becoming illegal aliens.
1. Tighter controls at the border have made Entry Without Inspection (EWI) more costly and far more dangerous. This, and a virtual end to interior enforcement,
makes legal access under a program such as H-2C a preferred means of gaining entry and eventual illegal status.
2. At last count, 26 bills have been introduced, some with presidential support, offering amnesty to a variety illegal alien categories and nationalities. Moreover, the
AFL-CIO, the traditional defender of the American worker, no longer opposes but supports these shamnesties.
Can there be anyone living in the Third World who does not know these things? Can there be anyone living in Mexico who does not have a friend or former
neighbor who has broken our laws and been rewarded for this with permanent residence and eventual American citizenship? These guestworker programs are a way
of defraying the labor costs of certain farmers in exchange for the foreign worker's access to U. S. residence and citizenship, (our patrimony).
Costs of H.R. 4548 Are Externalized.
Many of the costs of guestworker programs are externalized immediately or eventually upon taxpayers and local communities in the form of over-crowded schools,
urban sprawl, emergency medical care, environmental degradation, irredentism, and much more.
This Committee heard testimony on this subject on June 10, last year. Angie Morfin described herself as a "Latina-American," with Mexican and Apache forebears.
It was all she could do to maintain her composure as she described how her 13-year-old son had been chased and murdered, shot through the head by an illegal
alien gang member, who then escaped back to Mexico.
Illegal aliens, she went on, once viewed her hometown of Salinas, California as a short stop for agricultural work. Now they stay on and this has brought gangs,
violence, and drugs in abundance to her community. "It is not enough to talk about fixing the system," she said, "... you must act now ... A nation that cannot control
its borders won't be a nation for very long."
With a voice like rolling thunder, Terry Anderson stunned the audience with his trenchant attack on illegal immigration. Anderson has lived on the same street in
South Central Los Angeles for 45 years. His was once a mixed, but amicable, black and white neighborhood which, thanks to illegal immigration, is increasingly an
"You don't hear about" the 17-year-old black youth who was denied a job at the local McDonald's because he spoke only English. Or the 8-year-old black girl who
had to be bused 20 miles to get an education because the local school had no English-only classes. "We have things we never had before," said Anderson. "We have
chickens, we have goats ... and corn growing eight feet tall."
Nine houses have been sold on Mr. Anderson's street over the last five years. Though numerous black Americans had sought to buy them, all the houses were sold
at inflated prices to illegal aliens with multiple families signing on to each deed. And then there are the skilled jobs denied to blacks -- bricklayers, roofers, and
framers. Body and fender men who earned $20/hr in the 1970s can now only ply their trade at $7 or $8/hr.
H.R. 4548 Will Undermine the Rule of Law.
By promoting illegal immigration, H-2C will do its part to undermine perhaps the most precious gift bequeathed to us by our Founders: the rule of law. Numerical
restrictions enacted in 1924 were soon violated by a limited number of illegal aliens. We winked at this by establishing a registry date for very long-time illegal
residents and by allowing others to adjust status when a legal slot was available and into which we could fit them.
Unlike the proverbial horse thief hidden in the family genealogy, who brought shame to one's family, the illegal alien who is rewarded for his violations may be a hero
to his children and grandchildren. Today, millions of Americans are in that category, one that has been augmented repeatedly since 1986. How can anyone believe in
the sanctity of the law when they have been so vastly advantaged by breaking it? Need examples?--an editor of a leading newspaper and a current cabinet member
each bragged recently that one of their grandparents was an illegal alien--this, in an effort to show their sympathy for, and solidarity with, others in the same category.
Studies? What are they for?
Section 301 of H.R. 4548 provides for a series of studies--on agricultural labor standards, migrant child labor, migrant housing, field sanitation. By themselves, these
might be a good idea. But how about heeding the results of studies already made: like the NAWS study, or a December 1999 Congressional Research Service
study that showed that between 11% and 13% of farm workers hired during the years 1994-98 were unemployed at any given time. A recently updated GAO
report claims that "A sudden widespread farm labor shortage requiring the importation of large numbers of foreign workers is unlikely to occur in the near future."
More significantly, the report of the Commission on Immigration Reform (the Jordan Commission) concluded that a new guestworker program would be a "grievous
There is no shortage of farm workers in America at this time. But the debate is symptomatic of a long-term trend in America to low birthrates. For the first time in
our history, the native-born American population (and workforce) is not only barely increasing but may soon be headed for a decline. Will we respond to this by
developing the talents of Americans; by becoming more productive; by supporting employers who pay a living wage; or are we peering into a sinkhole with an
H-37K visa at the bottom? If America gets into the habit of dealing with this unaccustomed workforce direction by bringing in more foreign workers, then future
immigration will dwarf the current levels.
NAWS found that an astonishing 52% of farm workers are illegal aliens (page 22). Obviously, the Congress has not seen fit to provide an adequate means for
identifying who is legal and who is not. Nevertheless, it is currently illegal to hire an illegal alien. And it hardly seems proper to reward the beneficiaries of such illegal
hiring with yet another benefit such as H-2C.
Ambassador George Kennan in his last book, Around the Cragged Hill, warned that "... the inability of any society to resist immigration, the inability to find other
solutions to the problem of employment at the lower, more physical, and menial levels of the economic process, is a serious weakness, and possibly even a fatal one,
in any national society. The fully healthy society would find ways to meet those needs out of its own resources."
1. Most of my statistics are drawn from Research Report #8 of the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS), Department of Labor, March 2000.