Last week, the House of Representatives passed two pieces of amnesty legislation – H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, and H.R. 1603, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.
Taken together, these bills seek to put 4.5 million illegal aliens on a pathway to citizenship without a single meaningful improvement to immigration enforcement. While their future in the Senate remains uncertain, if any immigration bill has a decent chance at reaching President Biden’s desk, it’s the farmworker amnesty.
It’s worth noting that the Farm Workforce Modernization Act passed not only with near-universal Democratic support, but also a significant number of Republicans. It received a whopping 30 Republican votes, with 10 members co-sponsoring the legislation. Now, after receiving well-deserved heat, some of those representatives are defending their votes in favor of this amnesty, even going as far as telling the American people that these bills were not amnesties at all.
Freshman Rep. Peter Meijer (Mich.), a member of the billionaire Meijer superstore family, released a Twitter video in which he defended his vote in favor of H.R. 1603, the farmworker amnesty. This comes after he promised the residents of Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District that he would vote to “secure the borders.” On his campaign website, Meijer promised to “reform our broken immigration system so that it prioritizes merit-based immigration.”
Yet in his Twitter video, Meijer said that:
Workforce shortages are a huge challenge for #MI03 farmers & have led to job losses for US citizens. Even in a pandemic w/ high unemployment, farmers still can’t find labor they need. HR 1603 also includes mandatory E-Verify to bring much needed immigration enforcement to the agricultural sector while ensuring farmers can access a legal workforce during their growing seasons. Glad to see it pass the House!
Scores of Twitter users pointed out that Meijer’s thinking was flawed and criticized him for supporting this amnesty bill. One user responded that he was a “coward.” One user asked “Have you tried improving the wages and working conditions yet?” Obviously, the answer to that question is no.
A second Republican lawmaker, Rep. Mike Simpson (Idaho), said in a speech on the House floor that:
This bill is not about what’s happening at the southern border … this bill is not amnesty. It does not grant anybody amnesty. It allows individuals to get right with the law and to become a legal workforce in the United States. It’s about providing a stable, legal workforce for the people who put food on our tables.
What Rep. Simpson forgot to mention is that we already have a stable and legal workforce for the people who put food on our tables. It is the H-2A guestworker program. H-2A is uncapped – meaning an unlimited number of farmworkers can come to the U.S. – and are relatively inexpensive to use. But many big farms do not like to use H-2A because it involves meeting certain federal requirements, whereas it is much easier to simply hire an illegal alien off the street for even cheaper than a legal guestworker.
Rep. Simpson is mistaken when he said that this is not an amnesty. How can that be true when 1.5 to 2 million illegal aliens can earn a pathway to citizenship, after a grotesque indentured servitude period where they are tied to the farms? That is an amnesty – plain and simple. Worse, Rep. Simpson’s claim that this bill “allows individuals to get right with the law” is ridiculous. Rep. Simpson supported a bill that forces the law to get right with the people who violated it. The only way these illegal aliens could “get right” with the current law is if they followed the current law and returned to their home countries.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act amnesty gives the agriculture industry exactly what they want – more cheap foreign labor. Mechanization and automation technology already exist for wide swaths of agriculture, including grain crops. Yet farms still use hand-picking for crops like fruits and some vegetables. Why is this? Why not adopt or invest in mechanization? Because it is significantly cheaper (in the short-term) to hire illegal aliens and guestworkers.
The solution here is not to amnesty those millions of illegal alien farmworkers. The solution is to improve farmer access to labor-saving technology that negates the use of farmhands in the first place, making our agriculture more efficient and removing the jobs magnet that attracts illegal aliens working in agriculture.