Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Bush administration plans to reform part of the agricultural "guest worker" program to make it easier for foreign workers to come to the US:
The proposed changes to the program, which would relax the requirements for the H-2A visas granted to foreign farmworkers, come against a backdrop of growing anger over illegal immigration and tension among the presidential candidates over the issue.

The new regulations could be a boon to growers, who have long complained that the program is too cumbersome and leaves them little choice but to turn to illegal immigrants.

The simplified rules are certain to generate outrage among anti-immigration activists, who say the program steals jobs from Americans. At the same time, advocates for farmworkers charge that under the new rules, growers could exploit workers by paying them less than they do now.

The proposed changes, which would take effect after a 45-day period of public comment, would modify how foreign laborers are paid and housed, and slightly expand the types of industries that can use the program. The administration would also ease the standards farmers must now meet to show they have tried to hire U.S. citizens first.