The Trump administration proposed new immigration rules Monday for temporary agricultural workers that officials said would make it easier for employers to apply for the visas.
The regulatory changes will play out in a charged political climate on immigration as President Donald Trump has clamped down on border crossings and promised a series of raids against undocumented immigrants around the country.
The Labor Department said in a statement announcing the proposed new regulations that the changes would simplify the H-2A program through electronic filing of job orders and applications and allowing employers the option of staggering entry of H-2A workers on a single applications.
Agricultural groups have pressed for changes to make it easier to bring in foreign workers to meet seasonal needs. The H-2A visa is intended for temporary agricultural workers in cases where there are insufficient American workers able or willing to fill openings.
“The proposed rule will increase access to a reliable legal agricultural workforce, easing unnecessary burdens on farmers, increase enforcement against fraud and abuse, all while maintaining protections for America’s workers,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement. “When this rule goes into effect, our farmers will be released from unnecessary and burdensome regulations.”
A 489-page notice covering the regulatory changes will be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, the Labor Department said.
Representatives for the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Western Growers Association said Monday that the groups were still analyzing the new regulations.
United Farm Workers President Teresa Romero and UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres said the proposed rules “would make it easier to deny jobs to domestic farm workers so growers can hire more temporary foreign agricultural guest workers and pay them less, thereby depressing pay for domestic workers.”
“Trump is setting a new low of hypocrisy, racism and self-dealing, even for him,” they added in a joint statement.