KEY VOTE: “NO” on the “Farm Workforce Modernization Act” (H.R. 5038)

KEY VOTE: House · Dec 11, 2019

Heritage Action strongly opposes the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038) and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

This week, the House will vote on H.R. 5038, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. Many Americans acknowledge our immigration system needs to be reformed to ensure it meets the needs of U.S. interests. In fact, according to Heritage Action polling, 54 percent of Americans believe illegal immigration affects their lives.

Unfortunately, this bill grants amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants without doing anything to reform our broken immigration system.

This bill creates a new “certified agricultural worker” status for which only illegal immigrant agricultural workers would be eligible. To be eligible for this new status, individuals must be here illegally, as the bill states eligible aliens must be “inadmissible or deportable from the United States on the date of the introduction of this Act.” Furthermore, once this status has been granted to an individual, their children and spouses can then be granted “certified agricultural dependent” status leading to a much larger population of illegal workers being granted amnesty.

After being granted the “certified agricultural worker” status, these individuals and their families would then have the opportunity to become lawful permanent residents, which in turn would afford them a pathway to citizenship.

Proposing amnesty while the country is in the midst of an illegal immigration crisis is an insult to Americans. Amnesty rewards those who have broken the law by offering them a pathway to citizenship and should always be opposed.

According to the Heritage Foundation’s Senior Research Fellow in Agricultural Policy, Daren Bakst:

The sheer scope of this proposed amnesty would be massive. According to the latest National Agricultural Worker Survey data (fiscal years 2015-16), an astonishing 49 percent of farmworkers are illegally in the United States. Some estimates are as high as 70 percent. The total number of illegal immigrants working in agriculture is not clear, but it is likely at least 1.5 million people and possibly much higher. For example, Farmworker Justice states that there are approximately 2.5 million illegal agricultural workers.

The legislation would therefore be granting amnesty to millions of workers, and that does not even include their spouses and children. Also, as many of these agricultural workers move to lawful permanent resident status and then to citizenship, there is no reason to think they would simply continue to work as farmworkers. This amnesty plan, which allegedly exists in part to help farmers with their labor needs, would likely have a limited short-term benefit to farmers as existing workers move off the farm. This movement away from the farm is precisely what happened when the United States granted amnesty to over 1 million agricultural workers in 1986.

In passing this legislation, Congress would send a clear message: there is little reason for would-be immigrants to follow our immigration laws. Instead, this bill incentivizes illegal immigration with the promise of amnesty while not even affording the same opportunity to agricultural guest workers who are here legally. Rather than granting amnesty, Congress should pursue real reforms to legal pathways for aliens to enter the United States and move our immigration system towards a merit-based system.


An Agenda for American Immigration Reform
Immigrants Should Not Be on Welfare
Enforcing Immigration Law: What States Can Do
Amnesty Would Cost Trillions

Heritage Action strongly opposes the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038) and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.