Voice: Guest worker problem answer to a couple problems

January 26, 2002

I would like to respond to Mr. John Garcia's Jan. 18 letter "Don't entrust Valley's future to farmers."

Mr. Garcia makes many misstatements about farmers, guest worker problems and the hard-working people who put fresh vegetables on his table.

The U.S. Department of Labor currently supervises a guest worker program (H2A) that brings foreign workers to perform work that most Americans simply will not do. Guest workers under this program are paid a wage rate that not only exceeds the minimum wage but is guaranteed to be high enough not to bring down wages in the state.

The current hourly rate for H2A workers in California is $7.62 and will soon exceed $8 per hour. Furthermore, farmers are required to provide housing and transportation for guest workers under this program. Finally, the rights of workers who participate in this program are guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Labor.


All informed observers of the immigration problem are convinced that a guest worker program where workers come to the U.S. to work and then return to their country of origin after the harvest is the only way to assure an adequate work force in agriculture and prevent illegal immigration. The whole point of a guest worker program is not to cycle endless numbers of foreign workers through the system but to establish a stable group of skilled workers who would return to their homes and not drain county and state resources during the off-season.

Finally, if Mr. Garcia is wondering why there are so few jobs in the Imperial Valley he should look to Arizona where, for example, the minimum wage is 30 percent lower than California. High unemployment areas like the Imperial Valley are always adversely impacted by large increases in the minimum wage forcing some employers to move elsewhere.


Vice president and general counsel

Western Growers Association


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