Bills Introduced To Aid Employers Of Alien Agricultural Workers

Some horse operations have difficulty employing workers during the busy breeding and training season. In most cases it is difficult to locate competent workers to work on a temporary or seasonal basis. In these situations some breeding operations have turned to alien agricultural workers.

Currently, a horse breeding operation wishing to employ temporary or seasonal alien agricultural workers must use the H-2A program operated through the Department of Labor and Immigration and Naturalization Services. A recent Government Accounting Office (GAO) study criticized the H-2A program as being too bureaucratic and involving too many levels of government that often results in conflicting administrative procedures and regulations.

Senator Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and Congressman Bob Smith (R-Ore.) have each introduced legislation that could benefit the horse industry in its efforts to employ aliens. The legislation would establish a two year pilot program for the admission of additional temporary and seasonal alien agricultural workers. Senator Smith's bill, S. 1563, would allow an additional 25,000 workers annually, while Congressman Smith's bill, H.R. 3410, would permit 20,000 temporary and seasonal workers to enter the country annually.

The pilot program established by S. 1563 and H.R. 3410 would allow an employer, or an association on behalf of an employer, to hire temporary and seasonal alien workers provided a valid labor condition attestation is filed that has been accepted by the state employment security agency and includes specific information identifying the employer or association and the agricultural job opportunities involved.

Both bills would ensure that alien workers return home in a timely manner by withholding a share of the alien worker's wage until the worker has returned to his/her country of origin.

The House Judiciary's Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims held a mark-up session regarding H.R. 3410. The Subcommittee approved the legislation and forwarded the bill to the full committee by a voice vote.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has not yet considered S. 1563.

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