Department of Homeland Security Proposes New Rule for H-2A Program

Washington, D.C. - The United Farm Workers and the UFW Foundation note the Department of Homeland Security’s newly published proposed rules for H2 visa workers, including for H-2A agricultural guest workers. The UFW and UFW Foundation are carefully reviewing and look forward to facilitating farm worker feedback during the rulemaking process. These proposed rules from DHS come a week after the Department of Labor announced new proposed rules that would strengthen workplace protections for H-2A workers. 

DHS’s proposed rules for both the H-2 programs (H-2A and H-2B) would establish stronger measures to protect workers from being exploited, such as whistleblower protections, a 60-day grace period to allow workers to seek new employment after leaving an abusive employment situation and still retain their H-2A status and would bolster accountability measures of the H-2 programs, among other protections. 

As expressed many times previously, the H-2A agricultural guest worker program has long been rife with abuse, exploitation and trafficking. The announcement of these proposed rules come after sustained advocacy, pressure, and engagement with the Biden-Harris administration by farm worker communities, unions and advocates.

While systemic issues with the H-2A program remain—including the lack of portability for workers to change employers, lack of pathway to citizenship and exclusion from many federal labor protections—the UFW and UFW Foundation are hopeful that these DHS proposed rules, along with DOL’s proposed rules, can be the foundation for greater efforts to improve the lives of both H-2A and domestic farm workers. 

“Farm workers, including the hundreds of thousands who come to this country every year under H-2A agricultural worker visas, have been the essential human link in our nation’s food supply chain,” said United Farm Workers President Teresa Romero. “They have long deserved stronger safeguards against trafficking, bribes, forced labor, wage theft, employer retaliation and the many other abuses faced by H-2A workers in our country. We look forward to engaging with the DHS rulemaking process to ensure stronger protections for these exceedingly vulnerable workers.”  

“After the DOL and the DHS announced new rule proposals for the H-2A program, we are encouraged to see the Biden Administration is taking steps towards reforming a program that has seen so many workers exploited by so many employers,” said UFW Foundation Chief Executive Officer Diana Tellefson Torres. “While we are glad that DHS will be strengthening protections to H-2A guestworkers, we still need them to enforce these rules. Employers must be held accountable for their actions when they skirt the law. We look forward to uplifting the voices of farm workers during the comment period.”