April, 4, 2013, Louisville, KY- Included in the immigration reform bill currently being crafted in Washington D.C. is a proposal that would benefit Kentucky farmers and the immigrant workers they rely on.

migrant workers

As an industry that relies heavily on immigrant workers, many of who are undocumented, the farm worker visa program is an important issue which has been largely ignored during the public immigration debate.

Lawmakers working on immigration reform have recognized that the agricultural industry in Kentucky and throughout the entire country is largely dependent on temporary migrant workers. The Lexington-Herald Leader reported that at least half of all migrant farm workers are in the country illegally, that’s because the HB-2 visa application process takes too long, an average of 10 months, well after its time to harvest fields.

If lobbyists for can agriculture and labor can settle key disagreements over worker’s wages and visa quotas, farmers would be allowed to hire more migrant workers which would benefit all Kentucky residents.

“It comes down to either we’re importing our labor or we’re importing our food, and if we don’t have access to a legal supply of labor we will start going offshore,” said Kristi Boswell, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, Herald-Leader reported.

Farmers are asking policymakers to increase the number of migrant worker allowed in the country each year along with making a quicker path to legal status for farmworkers already here.

Labor though believes farmers won’t pay migrant workers fair wages and are reluctant to increase HB-2 visa quotas. Farmers on the other hand insist they want to offer a fair wage and their future depends on these workers.

In 2011, 55,000 people were granted HB-2 visas falling far short of the 2 million workers actually employed in the agriculture industry.

Giev Kashkooli, vice president United Farm Workers, explained why HB-2 visa reform is so critical, “One thing that we know is that there’s not an industry that will benefit more from a new immigration program than agriculture. The problem is industry needs people who are both willing and able to do the work. And it’s difficult work.”

One solution that farmers and unions can agree on is a new type of visa, the “blue visa,” which would allow and accelerated path to legal residency for farmworkers who have worked in the industry for at least two years and intend to stay in the industry for an additional five years.

Reforming the immigration system is if utmost importance to both immigrants and business, but how it will shape up in the final bill is uncertain until policymakers introduce their bill sometime next week.

Even if there are sweeping changes to the immigration laws, individuals will need help navigating the system. The various visa and citizenship applications can be complex and must be filled out correctly, this can be problematic for people who may not understand the legal language.

Louisville immigration attorney Rusty O’Brien is highly qualified to help individuals with any immigration issue they may have, whether it is applying for a visa or trying to avoid deportation.

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