March 19, 2020
U.S. senators today sent a bipartisan, bicameral letter urging the Trump Administration to maintain access to vetted, temporary workers to help ensure America’s agriculture industry has the workforce it needs as the nation combats the coronavirus.
The senators expressed their concerns to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, and Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia.
“We understand the importance of maintaining public health safety during this time and appreciate the Administration’s actions to minimize the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote the senators. “However, there are substantial national security concerns that will arise should our farmers not have the labor they need.”
“Food security is national security. We believe suspending visa services that our farmers rely on will be detrimental to families across our nation trying to put food on the table. We also believe that protocols should be in place as H-2A applications are processed to help protect public health in the United States should COVID-19 cases increase in Mexico or other participating countries,” continued the senators.
The senators asked the agencies to take the following actions to support American farmers:
Use all existing available authorities to provide maximum flexibility to consulate staff in the processing of H-2A visa applicants, while implementing protocols to protect public health.
Identify any current legal or logistical hurdles that may prevent your agencies from implementing additional flexibilities, such as developing a separate screening process or remote interviews, in processing H-2A visa applicants.
Provide an estimation of any costs associated with implementing any of the aforementioned actions.
Provide data on the number of H-2A petition beneficiaries nationwide and by state that are eligible for an interview waiver and will not be affected by these processing changes.
Information provided by U.S. Senators David Perdue's office.
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