July 2021, Volume 27, Number 3
DOL certified almost 9,900 applications to fill 166,000 jobs with H-2A workers in the first two quarters of FY21, up from 8,600 applications and 138,000 jobs certified in the first two quarters of FY20. Job certifications in FY21 were 20 percent higher than in FY20.
The second quarter accounted for 35 percent of all jobs certified in FY20. If this pattern holds in FY21, the 117,000 jobs certified during the second quarter of FY21 suggests that there could be 334,000 jobs certified in FY21. Bracero admissions peaked at 455,000 in the mid-1950s.
Florida accounted for 15 percent of jobs certified in the first half of FY21, followed by 13 percent in Georgia, 10 percent each in California and Washington, and seven percent in North Carolina. Crop workers were 84 percent of the jobs certified, followed by agricultural equipment operators, eight percent, animal workers six percent, and construction workers and truck drivers.
Representatives Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) added language to the FY22 Homeland Security Appropriations bill that would allow dairy and other farmers that offer year-round jobs to employ H-2A workers. In the past, efforts to eliminate the requirement that only seasonal jobs can be filled by H-2A guest workers failed.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, approved by the House in March 2021, is being considered and modified by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Mike Crapo (R-ID). The Agriculture Workforce Coalition of several hundred farm organizations urged the Senate to act soon, calling the current H-2A program “cumbersome and expensive.” The AWC criticized the FLS-based AEWR, asserting that it is a “flawed survey-based wage rate set using data that does not take into account the value of other expensive mandated benefits” provided to H-2A workers.
Support for the FWMA among migrant advocates is uneven. The UFW and Farmworker Justice support the FWMA, while the Washington-based Familias Unidas por la Justicia and other worker groups oppose the FWMA.
A federal judge in May 2021 required employers of H-2A workers to pay them 2021 AEWRs between January 15, 2021 and February 23, 2021. The 2020 AEWRs were in effect until 2021 AEWRs were released February 23, 2021, and the judge ruled that H-2A workers and US workers in corresponding employment are entitled to back wages for the period that they were paid the lower 2020 AEWRs.
H-2B. There are 66,000 H-2B visas a year available to admit foreign workers to fill seasonal nonfarm jobs. In April 2021, DHS announced that an additional 22,000 H-2B visas would be available, with some set aside for citizens of the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
Morey’s Piers in Wildwood, New Jersey, says that it relies on H-2B and J-1 foreigners to fill 1,500 amusement park jobs. Morey’s wants US consulates abroad to begin processing more visas without interviewing applicants in-person.
An owner of Midway West Amusement, Jordan Jensen, was charged with human trafficking in July 2021 in Utah after some of the 20 Mexican workers with H-2B visas complained that they worked long hours and did not retain their passports. Midway paid $400 a week, but required workers to work 70 hours a week or more, and did not provide them with adequate housing.