Julia Preston, New York Times, September 8, 2011
A leading Republican lawmaker has proposed creating a program to bring 500,000 foreign migrant farm workers to the United States each year, responding to an outcry this summer from American farmers who said shortages of legally authorized labor were imperiling their crops.
The lawmaker, Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced his farm guest worker bill late on Wednesday and held a hearing on it in the House on Thursday. He is proposing a thorough overhaul of the existing guest worker program for agriculture, known as H-2A, which is shunned by most growers as too bureaucratic and costly for their fast-changing labor needs in fields and orchards.
Instead, farmers have turned to some 1.1 million illegal immigrants now estimated to be working in agriculture.