During the fiscal year that ended on September 30, the US Labor Department approved 317,619 seasonal guest workers, an increase of 15% from a year earlier. It was the highest number of jobs ever approved for H-2A guestworker visas, according to Farmworker Justice, a critic of the program.
The H-2A visa program has grown in popularity at the same time that producers say it is harder to hire domestic farmworkers. Twice as many job slots were approved for guest workers in 2021 as in 2016, which was roughly double the number of visas in 2012, when the program began to accelerate.
The number of companies requesting guest workers doubled since 2010. Mexico provides the lion’s share of the workers.
Farmworker Justice said abuses such as wage theft, sex discrimination, and unsafe job conditions were rampant in the guestworker program, partly because the workers could lose their jobs and be forced to leave the country if they complain.
“Congress should pass immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship for the hundreds of thousands of current undocumented farmworkers and their families,” it said.