FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 18, 2019
Contact: Press@paul.senate.gov, 202-224-4343
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the Paperwork Reduction for Farmers and H-2A Modernization Act (S. 1887), a bill providing much needed regulatory relief to Kentucky’s agriculture community by reducing red tape and streamlining temporary agriculture worker visa programs. By allowing certain categories of temporary workers currently under the capped H-2B program, such as those in the equine and livestock industries, to apply through the uncapped H-2A program, this legislation would ensure Kentucky farmers are able to hire and retain the workers they need. It would simultaneously reform the H-2A application system, alleviating unnecessary bureaucratic delays from an outdated application system.
“My Paperwork Reduction for Farmers and H-2A Modernization Act provides a commonsense solution to a frustrating problem by reforming our antiquated H-2A and H-2B temporary worker programs to meet the labor needs of Kentucky’s entire agriculture community. By providing greater flexibility within the programs, increasing reliability from season to season, and eliminating unnecessary regulatory burdens, my bill gets government out of the way so these Kentucky farmers and industries can grow, succeed, and continue supporting the Commonwealth’s economy,” said Sen. Paul.
Over the last several years, Sen. Paul has led the charge to enact necessary reforms to our outdated temporary worker programs. His past legislation to streamline the H-2A program, introduced in 2016 and again in 2017, came from listening to Christian County farmers and working directly with them to ensure the bill addressed their issues. In 2018, the Trump Administration responded to the push for reform and announced their intention to streamline the H-2A program. Sen. Paul’s Paperwork Reduction for Farmers and H-2A Modernization Act is a continuation of his efforts on behalf of Kentucky’s agriculture community.
Agriculture, livestock, equine, and landscaping leaders across Kentucky and the nation are applauding Sen. Paul’s efforts and released several statements of support. You can find a document with full statements HERE.
The Paperwork Reduction for Farmers and H-2A Modernization Act provides solutions to several critical issues within the H-2A and H-2B temporary worker visa programs that are currently leaving many farmers frustrated and unable to hire and retain the workers they need. While there is no cap on the number of temporary visas issued under the H-2A program, the H-2B program has an annual cap of 66,000 visas. This restrictive cap has caused many farms and businesses in need of livestock, poultry, dairy, and equine workers—as well as those in supporting jobs such as landscapers and groundskeepers—to suffer, as these workers are locked into the H-2B program. Additionally, the H-2A program is in need of streamlining and reform.
Senator Paul’s Paperwork Reduction for Farmers and H-2A Modernization Act does the following:
· Allows livestock (including dairy, cattle, and poultry) and equine workers, aquacultural, forestry conservation, and landscaping workers to be eligible to apply for participation in the uncapped H-2A program. The bill does not abolish the H-2B program; anyone that wishes to remain under the H-2B program may do so.
· A temporary worker that follows the terms of their visa should be rewarded with expedited approvals the next time they apply. Thus, for an employer hiring returning workers, this bill creates a simplified application process and guarantees certain approvals pending any necessary security checks.
· Allows farmers to apply for workers with staggered start and end dates on the same application, rather than an impractical one-size-fits-all status quo.
· Requires the Department of Labor (DOL) to create an online application process and requires U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to create an online Request for Evidence (RFE) system. The DOL application would indicate any technical deficiencies before submission.
· Requires the government to promptly provide a reason for a denial or delay to the employer, and to provide a reasonable time for the employer to remedy the problem.
· Ensures an employer, who uses a third-party preparer to file an application for non-immigrant visas for workers and the paperwork was filed for the wrong program, will not face penalties, civil or criminal, for document fraud so long as the employer can demonstrate a reasonable belief the application was accurate and complied with statutory requirements.