On behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), we are writing to urge you to support the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act of 2005 (“AgJOBS”), which will be offered by Senators Craig (R-ID) and Kennedy (D MA) as an amendment to H.R. 1268, the FY2005 supplemental appropriations bill currently being considered by the Senate. We also urge you to reject any efforts to undermine this bipartisan, carefully-crafted legislation.
AgJobs is a compromise bill that has been endorsed by both farmworkers and their agricultural employers. It will give agricultural employers a stable labor supply by giving many agricultural workers the chance to legalize their immigration status. The majority of farmworkers now are undocumented. Under the earned adjustment program in the AgJobs legislation, the workers will have to demonstrate that they have been working in the U.S. and are eligible for lawful immigration status, and then must work three to six additional years in agriculture in the U.S. to gain permanent residency. These qualifications represent a tough but realistic compromise.
Furthermore, unlike proposals such as the REAL ID Act of 2005 (H.R. 418), which has been attached to the House-passed version of H.R. 1268, and which would unwittingly weaken homeland security by driving many immigrants further underground, AgJobs will promote security by making it easier for our government to identify who is inside the United States.
The treatment of guestworkers is of great importance to the civil rights community because guestworkers face severe social and economic discrimination as well as a shortage of labor protections. Whether it was Chinese laborers in the 19th century, the 4.5 million braceros brought into the U.S. between World War II and 1963, or H-2A workers under the current program, guestworkers have long been the most vulnerable and poorly treated workers among us. Even today, they are subject to below-poverty level wages, non-existent or substandard housing, and a lack of coverage by basic labor standards that other American workers take for granted. The long-overdue AgJobs bill would significantly improve the status and conditions of agricultural workers, and for this reason LCCR strongly urges its passage.
Again, we strongly urge you to pass the Craig-Kennedy AgJobs amendment, and reject any alternative legislation or any amendments that would upset the fair, sensible balance that AgJobs strikes. Thank you for your support. If you have any questions, please feel free to call Rob Randhava, LCCR Counsel, at (202) 466-6058.