Last week CIERTO CEO Joe Martinez was invited to give remarks at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) event on Capitol Hill.

Joe received the invitation after presenting at the Round Table on H-2 Migration and Fair Recruitment at the 9th Summit of the Americas in June. 

The CHC event was focused mostly on HR1603, The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which creates a new class of temporary, non-immigrant agricultural worker: the Certified Agricultural Worker (CAW). Their spouse or children may be granted status as a Certified Agricultural Dependent. 

Without getting bogged down with too much detail, the Act also paves the way for CAWs and their families to apply to become permanent lawful residents if they meet certain criteria, and makes some much-needed reforms to the H-2A program.

CIERTO H-2A Coordinator Gilberto Rodriguez preparing workers to cross the border.

5 Takeaways from the Panel

The Bill as it stands is not perfect, but is a welcome attempt to  address both farm worker and employer concerns. CIERTO stands in support of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. 

After taking part in both of these events, we have a few thoughts regarding the Bill and the panel

  1. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act will provide access to more regular migration pathways, and more options for workers to receive H-2A visas. It should make it generally safer for folks to come to the US for work, and strengthen protections for workers who wish to pursue legal residency.
  2. It targets the threat of forced labor, attempting to ensure that people don’t have to pay to come work in the US, predicating the expansion of non-immigrant visas on a foundation of responsible recruitment practices.
  3. Passage should result in a more stable farm labor force, one of CIERTO’s core objectives from the get-go.
  4. It’s passage would result in greater food safety and security, to the benefit of consumers, retailers, workers and anyone else who eats fruits and vegetables.
  5. The panel itself demonstrates that progress is being made on the ethical recruitment front. 

Joe also was also honored to meet Dolores Huerta, a civil rights activist, who – at 92 – is still active at her eponymous Foundation, fighting for farmworkers rights. Her inclusion in the CHC panel indicates that at least some parts of the US government are becoming more serious about the protection of migrants’ rights. 

Workers on the bus to their new jobs in the United States.

The Panel took place against the backdrop of the Biden Administration’s expansion of the H-2A program into the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, El Salvador, the Honduras). 

In February, the Government invited CIERTO to become pretty much the featured Farm Labor Contractor of the H-2 expansion, and working with the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, by the middle of March we hit the ground running with an office in Guatemala, and a pilot program offering $500 per worker to growers who work with us to ethically recruit from Guatemala.

We’re calling the program the Guatemala Workforce Initiative (GWI), and we’re very excited to be rolling it out over the summer, working with the Buffett Foundation and the Administration to bring great employees together with responsible growers, and to demonstrate that responsible recruiting is good business. 

Guatemalen workers have a variety of skills that should help our clients in apples, lettuces and greens, and potatoes become even more efficient, as well as some areas of expertise that will give us the opportunity to expand our potential markets into new spaces.

We’ve already placed some hard working folks on the East Coast, and are eager to keep the momentum for responsible recruitment going!

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