Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Bush's 'midnight regulation' will hurt citizens and hurt farm workers

Opponents of illegal immigration and advocates for farm workers are blasting a 'midnight regulation' by President George W. Bush which would change the Labor Department’s H-2A Temporary Agriculture Worker Program, making it easier for agricultural employers to hire foreign workers.

The change would both undermine worker protections and set wage levels so low that U.S. workers could not compete with foreigners for jobs. The regulation allows agricultural employers to hire temporary foreign workers if not enough domestic workers are 'able or willing' to fill farm jobs.

Bush’s regulation is expected to take effect January 17, three days before President-elect Barack Obama takes office. ‘Midnight regulations’ are rules pushed by the executive branch in the waning days of a lame-duck president's term, but the incoming president is free to revise or revoke such last-minute changes.

The number of workers covered by the H-2A visas is only a small segment of the larger farm worker contingent that's close to 1.6 million, more than 80 percent of whom are foreign-born, said Craig Regelbrugge of the American Nursery and Landscape Association. Of those who are foreign-born workers, he said, nearly 75 percent are in the U.S. illegally.

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