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Newly introduced bill allows DHS to detain immigrants with motor vehicle law violations

Laurie Fischer for Progressive Dairyman Published on 07 November 2018

Recently, a new immigration bill (HR 7059 Border Wall Funding and Immigration) has been introduced in the House of Representatives, which could significantly increase immigration enforcement efforts on unauthorized workers across the U.S.

This could spell disaster for our nation’s already struggling dairy industry as it would greatly expand the offenses in which an undocumented worker could be detained and deported from the U.S. It is imperative that the dairy industry move legislation forward to include provisions allowing for a visa category for year-round, legal workers. Could the AG Act be the answer to the dairy industry’s worker shortages?

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What is HR 7059?

The HR 7059 Border Wall Funding and Immigration bill calls for more than $23 billion to fund the construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall. A portion of this money, $6.77 billion, will be directed toward improved infrastructure, technology and increased security. While providing safety and security toward our southern border is crucial, the bill adds additional provisions that could be problematic for undocumented workers already within the U.S.

HR 7059 allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to detain undocumented individuals who have been arrested for violation of a criminal or motor vehicle law. Furthermore, the bill expands the current definition of “aggravated felonies” and includes additions for mandatory detentions. This includes misdemeanors related to drunk driving. The standards for deportation and blocking entry of immigrants to the U.S. will be updated to include offenses related to identity fraud and drunk driving as well. Up to a two-year sentence could be enacted for immigrants who illegally enter the U.S. after being denied entry or deported. The bill also will allow DHS to issue a detainer to any immigrant arrested for a motor vehicle law as long as there is probable cause to believe the immigrant is unauthorized to be in the U.S.

This bill also does not include any provisions for individuals previously covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Recall, renewals for anyone covered under this policy ended in 2017, and so far, no agreement has been made on how to address these individuals who have been living and residing within the U.S. since childhood.

We all can agree that we want to create a safe nation for future generations; however, it is consistently true that dairy operations struggle to find workers they need to care for their livestock, despite increased wages and benefits. Any legislative bill that expands the criteria for deporting or banning individuals who wish to work on dairy operations without including a provision for a guest worker program is problematic and unacceptable for the future of the dairy industry.

A solution is in our grasp

One way or another, our nation’s immigration crisis must be dealt with; however, it is up to us to ensure we have access to a legal workforce. Currently, there is no access to visas for full-term workers in the U.S.

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The American Dairy Coalition has been working with hundreds of other dairy and agriculture industry associations to push the Ag and Legal Workforce Act across the finish line. This bill will create a new visa category, the H-2C visa, which will be applicable to the year-round labor needs of the dairy industry. It also protects employers from falling victim to hiring individuals using false documents and allows workers to be eligible for the H-2C program upon enactment of the AG Act. The current workforce, along with additional new and vetted workers, would finally have an avenue to work in the dairy sector legally.

What can you do?

As a member of the dairy industry, your voice matters. There is no story as powerful as that of the producers who struggle to find workers to milk and care for their cows. Your elected representatives must hear from you to understand how devastating this bill would be to the dairy industry without a guest worker program implemented along with it.

The numbers truly speak volumes as to how problematic the worker shortage is for our dairy industry, which pours billions of dollars into the U.S. economy and provides hundreds of thousands of jobs that domestic workers do want and rely on to provide for their families. According to a Texas A&M survey, a 50 percent reduction in availability of immigrant labor would put an estimated 3,506 dairy farms out of business. Furthermore, eliminating immigrant labor on dairy farms would reduce the U.S. economic output by $32.1 billion and reduce employment by 208,208 jobs.

You must speak up. Visit the U.S. House of Representatives website to find your House representative by selecting your state or entering your zip code in the top right corner. Let your representative know they cannot support HR 7059 without a fix for the dairy industry.  end mark

To learn more about the American Dairy Coalition, visit its website.

References omitted but are available upon request. Click here to email an editor.

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Laurie Fischer is president of the American Dairy Coalition. Email Laurie Fischer.

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