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Marshall expresses irritation with possible change to temporary visa program for farm workers

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Marshall expresses irritation with possible change to temporary visa program for farm workers

Sep 19, 2023 | 3:06 pm ET
By Tim Carpenter
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Marshall expresses irritation with possible change to temporary visa program for farm workers
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U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican, said he opposed changes proposed by President Joe Biden's administration to modify the temporary guest worker visa program heavily relied upon by U.S. farmers and ranchers to address labor shortages. (Jill Hummels for the Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas denounced a proposal by the administration of President Joe Biden to expand worker protections and enforcement procedures for participants in a federal visa program increasingly relied upon to address labor shortages in U.S. agriculture.

Marshall, a Republican member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, said reform sought by the Biden administration would make it more difficult and costly for farming and ranching employers to use the H-2A visa program to secure foreign labor to work legally in Kansas.

For years, agriculture employers have complained about bureaucratic challenges of the visa program. Advocates for workers have sought to reduce wage theft and other forms of exploitation. Most recipients of H-2A visas come to the United States from Mexico. They fill jobs whenever U.S. employers certify they cannot find enough people domestically who were willing, qualified and available to do temporary farm work.

“At a time when our nation’s agriculture industry faces a severe labor crisis, this proposed rule by the Biden administration makes it difficult and costly for our ag businesses to keep and recruit H-2A visa holders,” Marshall said. “We need substantial and productive reforms to our nation’s immigration policy, not government regulations that further penalize hard-working farmers and ranchers.

On Monday, federal officials said the proposed regulations, subject to a public comment period through Nov. 14, would better protect agriculture workers by expanding the agency’s ability to monitor compliance with visa regulations and to take enforcement action against violators.

The recommended rules would mandate disclosure of more information about individuals and organizations involved in recruiting and supervising foreign workers in the United States. It would strengthen the prohibition on fees being collected by employers or recruiters from temporary workers granted visas. The package would broaden authority of the federal government’s wage-and-hour division and revise regulations that have “been subject to misinterpretation.”

The proposed reforms were in a package presented by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to adjust the H-2A temporary agriculture and H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker programs.

“These proposed reforms will help U.S. employers address worker shortages through new program flexibilities,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of homeland security. “They will also help provide this vulnerable population of workers with the protections they deserve.”