Those who complain immigrants are stealing American jobs have never had to complete the paperwork necessary to receive approval to bring them into the United States to work on America’s farms.
Throughout the year, Brandon Davis’ clients typically bring in about 2,000 foreign workers for their farms, according to comments the partner in the Phelps Dunbar law firm made at the Mid-South Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference in Memphis, Tenn.
Many of them are the same workers year after year, he said, noting the same procedures must be followed each time. The first step is to conduct a labor market test; that is, growers must advertise for local workers to make sure they are not overlooking any U.S. citizens who might be qualified for those tasks.
“That means we have to have proof that it is likely true – within the proof of the standard – that the fact we are bringing in foreign laborers will not likely disadvantage a U.S. candidate for employment,” he said. “After that, you go to step two in the process which is at Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“When you’re at Immigration you’re saying the Department of Labor has already agreed to the fact that I’m going to have 50 crawfish workers or 50 cultivators or 300 combine operators coming into the U.S. to work at $11.57 an hour without overtime during our harvest season that’s not going to impact someone who is an American citizen who may be qualified for that job.”
The reality is many American family members, including members of Davis’ family, have moved away from the farm and are no longer interested in doing the type of work that producers are increasingly turning to foreigners to perform.
Davis said his great-grandfather planted sugarcane in Louisiana; his grandfather owned the land for the farm, “but I can guarantee you that none of my siblings or myself have ever swung a cane blade during the sugarcane harvest.”
The next step is making sure the prospective workers have permission to enter the country; that is, they haven’t violated immigration laws that would preclude them from re-entering the U.S. to work on a farm, says Davis.
For more information on Davis and the conference, visit www.NationalAgLawCenter.org.