New Orleans Some good news for guest workers may also indicate pressure and problems for comprehensive immigration reform. One piece of almost buried news was $2.75 million dollar back pay settlement for an Arkansas tree planting outfit that means tracking down more than 2200 workers from Mexico and Central America who were ripped off while planting pine seedlings in the dirt throughout the southeastern USA. The other was the news that Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced new rules for temporary guest workers that would provide more protections for such workers and restore about a buck and hour that they had lost through Bush Administration rules.
One of the main requirements was a nod to US-based workers, but seems to already be incurring the disappointment, if not wrath, of farmers’ organizations in the USA. The DOL would now make growers and others actually prove that they have conducted job searches before they are allowed to legally receive guest workers. The American Nursery and Landscape Association and the California Farm Bureau Federation were both bemoaning how difficult this would make it for them and how few growers would access the guest worker program.
The landscapers have been one of the few business based groups ready to sign on and stand up for comprehensive immigration reform. They are other growers and farm based organizations have a huge investment in the issue of “future flow” for immigrant workers. These new rules put the squeeze on them, and presumably they will try to squeeze others for some real progress on immigration reform. The problem for comprehensive reform may be that in many of the conservative Republican districts where they have strength, they may now be more invested in a quick fix for their issue, rather than wallowing into the swamp of comprehensive reform making it more difficult for the rest of us to make sure the right thing is done for immigrants in the USA and not just for employers looking for cheap labor wherever the source.