By Maria Peña
WASHINGTON – Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is looking to sweeten his agenda against undocumented immigrants with an agricultural guest worker plan that makes farm laborers disposable and does nothing to correct the problem of illegal immigration in the United States.
The measure, to be submitted to a congressional committee vote on Wednesday, would establish an H-2C visa for up to 500,000 temporary workers a year.
As part of the economic asphyxiation of the undocumented, Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, wants to force the entire business sector to take part in E-Verify, which requires companies to check the immigration status of new employees.
But agricultural concerns, already complaining about the shortage of field labor, have strongly objected to such an imposition.
To win over growers and persuade them to accept that bitter pill, Smith now offers them, by means of the American Specialty Agriculture Act, a source of temporary migrant workers.
To make sure these foreign workers get out and go back home once their cropland contracts expire, the H-2C visa will only be valid for 10 months and will not cover family members.
In addition, growers would be obliged to report to the Department of Homeland Security if a laborer walks off the job with the idea of hiding out and remaining in the United States illegally. Authorities would then issue a deportation order for that “guest worker.”
In practical terms, however, the measure represents a quick way to import cheap labor and turns a blind eye to the logic Smith has always used against the undocumented population.
Smith has always accused undocumented immigrants of stealing jobs from Americans. Except that now it seems advisable to import them to do the heavy field labor which, apparently, nobody else wants to do.
The proposal for H-2C visas “is responsive to the needs of American growers while maintaining strong safeguards to protect citizens and legal workers,” Smith said when he presented the measure on Sept. 7.
“It also makes necessary reforms to help ensure American growers hire a legal workforce without a fraud-ridden mass amnesty for illegal immigrant farmworkers,” he said.
Yet, like other drastic measures Smith has presented or supported in the past, this does absolutely nothing to correct the current chaos in the American immigration system.
Around 11 million undocumented immigrants are estimated to live and work in this country, most of whom have been in the United States for more than a decade and have put down roots in their communities.
Smith insists that his measure “is not against anybody” but rather he seeks to promote the creation of jobs for U.S. citizens amid an economic crisis.
For immigration reform advocates, however, his words reveal nothing so much as an anti-immigrant position that panders to the far right.
Neither of Smith’s two proposals offers a viable solution for the undocumented who, as consumers and taxpayers, contribute significantly to the American economy. EFE