As reported in Spotlight on October 15th, the Western Growers team, in coordination with its political and industry allies, moved quickly to mitigate the impacts of the government shutdown on the desert winter harvest. After working extensively with Members of Congress and their staffs, officials in the Obama administration, affected member companies, the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association (FFVA) and the U.S. Apple Association, early reports suggest that government agencies are beginning to respond affirmatively, agreeing to steps that would expedite application processing.
Several members of Congress -- on both sides of the aisle -- sent letters and/or made personal contact with the pertinent government agencies to request that they take all necessary steps needed to fast track the backlog of H-2A applications for growers. Here’s a rundown of the most recent activity:
Congressmen Sam Farr (CA-20) has been heavily engaged in gathering bipartisan congressional support. He has spearheaded two bipartisan letters, each signed by at least two dozen House Members. One letter was sent to Director Mayorkas at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) and the other was a multi-agency letter sent to the Secretaries of Labor, Homeland Security and State. He also previously combined with Rep. Jeff Denham to express concern over furloughed employees in a letter to Sec. Perez at the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Senate has also been very engaged on the issue. Senator Feinstein also led a bipartisan multi-agency letter with Senator Bill Nelson signed by eight additional U.S. Senators, in addition to sending an individual letter to Secretary Perez. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake have led the charge in Arizona with a recent multi-agency letter sent to the Secretaries of Labor, Homeland Security and State.
And of course, a letter was collectively sent by WG, FFVA and the U.S. Apple Association to DOL Secretary Perez on October 8th requesting relief.
On October 21st, the DOL’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification published an announcement setting out temporary procedures for expediting the process of H-2A certifications. USCIS expects to release similar guidance shortly and has agreed to excuse late filings caused by the government shutdown.
WG is encouraged by the initial progress agencies have taken and will continue to monitor the processing of H-2A applications to ensure continued responsiveness by the federal agencies.
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