Saturday, April 13, 2013

A New Serf Class?

It seems as though big business, purported "labor" groups, and ethnic lobbyists have pulled together a compromise on the agricultural part of the Gang of 8's immigration "reform" proposal, as Reuters reports.  However, the details of this legislation could have big implications for big government.

Here's what Reuters has to say about how farm workers who are currently illegal immigrants could gain legal status under this proposal:
Farm workers in the country illegally who agree to work in agriculture for an additional five to seven years would become eligible for a "green card" allowing permanent U.S. residence, according to two officials. The workers hold legal status, dubbed a "blue card" by negotiators, during the interim.
The new guest worker program would include a system for setting pay scales and initially would have a high ceiling for the number of visas that could be granted. After five years, the cap could be adjusted by the Agriculture Department. There would be a mechanism for meeting emergency needs for workers.

This kind of farm-worker amnesty could give growers great power over workers.  After all, continued employment in agriculture would be the only way for these amnestied immigrants to secure a path to citizenship, so they will be dependent upon agricultural employers.  This proposal would in some ways lock agricultural workers into a kind of caste, where they are only permitted to work into a certain industry.  This system could lead to considerable number of abuses at the workplace.  Moreover, this agricultural proposal would be a considerable experiment in centralized government planning.  Government would set pay scales and even change worker allocations as central planners see fit.  This is government interfering in the market in a radical way.

The Hill notes a further interesting detail: these legalized farm workers would potentially be able to bring their family members over soon (emphasis added).

“Under the proposed new immigration process, farm workers would be able to work in the fields without fear of getting deported immediately and will be able to reunite with their families in a relatively short period of time. The bill would give professional farm workers presently in the U.S., who have been contributing to our country, temporary legal status and the right to earn a green card in the future by continuing to work in agriculture,” said UFW President Arturo Rodriguez.
So would these amnestied farm workers be able to bring their families over with them before they become citizens?  What counts as family members for the purpose of this act?  A spouse and minor children?  Or siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and so forth?  So this legislative component might not only affect illegal farm workers (and Reuters estimates there could be as many as 900,000 of them), but numerous family members for each worker.  This part of the immigration "reform" proposal alone could set a few million on the path to citizenship, and it could further penalize would-be immigrants who have waited in their home countries for permission to immigrate to the US legally.

Obviously, the legislative language is still in process, but these details will need to be further explained.  The American people deserve to know whether government will be taking over the agricultural sector and how many people will be granted legal status through the Gang of 8's attempt at "comprehensive immigration reform."

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