May 10, 2013
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition this week adopted a statement of NSAC Principles for Immigration Reform and Agriculture. NSAC and its member groups recognize the importance of agricultural workers to the food system. We are encouraged that both chambers of Congress are pursuing immigration reform. In some major respects, however, the proposals put forth so far are headed in the wrong direction.
NSAC believes an agricultural immigration policy that treats workers as indentured servants and production inputs and not as members of families and social networks cannot be sustainable. The Senate “Gang of Eight” proposal with respect to agricultural workers is in serious danger of repeating the same mistakes of past immigration reforms.
The Senators’ proposal mirrors past guest worker programs with its use of agriculture industry specific visas. NSAC’s principles propose a new approach, namely a free labor market that provides all farm workers with full labor rights by creating a system to provide all farm workers with legal status. NSAC’s immigration reform principles support legalization of all current undocumented individuals and a path to citizenship for those who continue to work in the United States. NSAC supports the enforcement of labor law standards for farm workers and opposes industry-specific guest worker programs. NSAC supports a federally run visa system based on actual labor demand instead of arbitrary quotas.
NSAC believes comprehensive immigration reform is absolutely necessary to end the problems associated with having undocumented workers in the United States. Everyone in the country needs legal papers. The goal should be to eliminate incentives for employment of undocumented workers. This requires the legalization of the existing undocumented immigrants and a sufficient annual influx of legal immigrants at all skill levels.
In support of these principles, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, an NSAC member, has put forth a proposal entitled the North American Visa Program. The North American Visa (NAVA) program for manually skilled workers would be part of a larger comprehensive immigration reform that we assume would also address requirements for highly educated workers, alter country quotas, reform family reunification, and eliminate guest worker programs. A summary of the NAVA proposal is attached to the principles adopted by NSAC member organizations.