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HR 5038 - Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 - National Key Vote

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Title: Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019

Vote Smart's Synopsis:

Vote to pass a bill that establishes a certified agricultural worker status and amends the H-2A temporary worker program.

Highlights:

 

  • Authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to grant certified agricultural worker status to an undocumented immigrant who submits a completed application and required processing fees and who (Sec. 101):

    • Performed agricultural labor or services in the United States for at least 1,035 hours, or 180 workdays, during the 2-year period preceding the date of this bill’s introduction;

    • On the date of this bill’s introduction:

      • Is inadmissible or deportable from the US; or

      • Is under a grant of deferred enforced departure or has temporary protected status under the Immigration and Nationality Act; 

    • Has been continuously present in the US since this bill’s date of introduction and until the date on which the undocumented immigrant is granted certified agricultural worker status; and 

    • Is not otherwise eligible for certified worker status.

  • Defines “workday” as any day in which the individual is employed 5.75 or more hours in agricultural labor or services (Sec. 121).

  • Authorizes the DHS Secretary to grant certified agricultural dependent status to the spouse or child of an undocumented immigrant who has been granted certified agricultural worker status (Sec. 101).

  • Specifies that an undocumented immigrant is ineligible for certified agricultural worker or certified agricultural dependent status if the DHS Secretary determines that they are inadmissible under section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, with exceptions (Sec. 101).

  • Specifies that an undocumented immigrant is ineligible for certified agricultural worker or certified agricultural dependent status if the DHS Secretary determines that, excluding any offense under state law for which an essential element is their immigration status and any minor traffic offense, they have been convicted of (Sec. 101):

    • Any felony offense;

    • An aggravated felony;

    • 2 misdemeanor offenses involving moral turpitude, as described in the Immigration and Nationality Act; or

    • 3 or more misdemeanor offenses not occurring on the same date, and not arising out of the same act, omission, or scheme of misconduct. 

  • Authorizes the DHS Secretary, for humanitarian purposes, family unity, or otherwise in the public interest, to waive the grounds of inadmissibility under portions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Sec. 101). 

  • Specifies that certified agricultural worker and certified agricultural dependent status will be valid for 5.5 years (Sec. 102).

  • Authorizes the DHS Secretary to extend certified agricultural worker status for an additional 5.5-year period to a worker who submits an application within the 120-day period beginning 60 days before the expiration of the 5th year of the immediately preceding grant of certified status, if they (Sec. 103):

    • Have performed agricultural labor or services in the US for 575 hours, or 100 workdays, for each of the previous 5 years in which they held certified agricultural worker status; and

    • Has not become ineligible for certified agricultural worker status. 

  • Authorizes the DHS Secretary to adjust the status of an undocumented immigrant from that of a certified agricultural worker to that of a lawful permanent resident if they submit a completed application and required processing and penalty fees, and the Secretary determines that (Sec. 111):

    • The immigrant performed agricultural labor or services for no less than 575 hours, or 100 workdays each year:

      • For at least 10 years prior to this bill’s date of enactment and for at least 4 years in certified agricultural worker status; or

      • For fewer than 10 years prior to this bill’s date of enactment and for at least 8 years in certified agricultural worker status; and 

    • The immigrant has not become ineligible for certified worker status. 

  • Specifies that the spouse and each child of an immigrant described in the above highlight whose status has been adjusted to that of a lawful permanent resident may be granted lawful permanent residence if (Sec. 111):

    • The qualifying relationship to the principal immigrant on the date on which such immigrant was granted adjustment of status; and 

    • The spouse or child is not ineligible for certified agricultural worker dependent status. 

  • Requires the DHS Secretary to establish procedures to allow the spouse or child of a certified agricultural worker to self-petition for lawful permanent residence in cases involving the following (Sec. 111):

    • The death of the certified agricultural worker, so long as the spouse or child submits a petition no later than 2 years after the worker’s death; or

    • The spouse or child being battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by the certified agricultural worker. 

  • Requires that an undocumented immigrant seeking an adjustment of status must pay a $1,000 penalty fee, which will be deposited into the Immigration Examinations Fee Account of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Sec. 111).

  • Requires the DHS Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of State, and the United States Digital Service, to ensure the establishment of an electronic platform for which a petition for an H-2A worker may be filed (Sec. 201).

  • Requires the above-mentioned election platform to do the following (Sec. 201):

    • Serve as a single point of access for an employer to input all information and supporting documentation required for obtaining a labor certification from the Secretary of Labor and the adjudication of the H-2A petition by the DHS Secretary;

    • Serve as a single point of access for the DHS Secretary, the Secretary of Labor, and state workforce agencies to concurrently perform their respective review and adjudicatory responsibilities in the H-2A process;

    • Facilitate communication between employers and agency adjudicators, including by allowing employers to:

      • Receive and respond to notices of deficiency and requests for information;

      • Submit requests for inspections and licensing;

      • Receive notices of approval and denial; and

      • Request reconsideration or appeal of agency decisions; and 

    • Provide information to the Secretary of State and US Customs and Border Protection as necessary for the efficient and secure processing of H-2A visas and applications for admission. 

  • Requires the Secretary of Labor to maintain a national, publicly accessible online job registry and database of all job orders submitted by H-2A employers and must (Sec. 201):

    • Be searchable using relevant criteria, including types of jobs needed to be filled, the dates and locations of need, and the employers named in the job order; 

    • Provide an interface for workers in English, Spanish, and any other language that the Secretary of Labor determines to be appropriate; and

    • Provide for public access to job orders approved under the Immigration and Nationality Act. 

  • Requires each employer of an H-2A worker to offer the worker, during their period of authorized employment, wages that are at least the greatest of (Sec. 218):

    • The agreed-upon collective bargaining wage; 

    • The adverse effect wage; 

    • the prevailing wage (hourly wage or piece rate); or

    • The federal or state minimum wage. 

  • Requires the Secretary of Labor to publish the applicable adverse wage rate or successor wage rate, and prevailing wage, for each state and occupational classification through a notice in the Federal Register (Sec. 218).

  • Specifies that if the Secretary of Labor publishes an updated adverse effect wage rate or prevailing wage for a state and occupational classification rate guaranteed in the work contract, the employer must pay the updated wage no later than 14 days after publication of the updated wage in the Federal Register (Sec. 218).

  • Requires the DHS Secretary, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Agriculture, to establish a 6-year pilot program to facilitate the free movement and employment of temporary or seasonal H-2A workers to perform agricultural labor or services for agricultural employers registered with the Secretary of Agriculture, and such a worker will be referred to as a portable-H-2A worker (Sec. 206).

  • Authorizes individuals who have been previously admitted to the US in H-2A status and maintained such status during the period of admission to be provided the opportunity to apply for portable H-2A status (Sec 206).

  • Requires the DHS Secretary, in consultation with the Commissioner of Social Security, to submit to Congress a plan to modernize and streamline the employment eligibility verification (E-Verify) process and must include (Sec. 308):

    • Procedures to allow persons and entities to verify the identity and employment authorization of newly hired individuals where the in-person, physical examination of identity and employment authorization documents is not practicable; 

    • A proposal to create a simplified employment verification process that allows employers that use the E-Verify system established in the Immigration and Nationality Act, to verify the identity and employment authorization of individuals without also having to complete and retain Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, or any subsequent replacement form; and 

    • Any other proposal that the DHS Secretary determines would simplify the employment eligibility verification process without compromising the integrity or security of the system.

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