April 2005

The Sarasota/Manatee Farm Worker Supporters recognizes that immigration is a complicated issue.  Immigration policy has a substantial effect on the wages and working conditions of farmworkers, and also impacts the ability of unions to effectively organize migrants.


Because of this complexity, immigration questions cannot be resolved through simplistic approaches.  The SMFWS believes that several central principles should be the foundation of U.S. immigration policy:


·        The United States’ treatment of aliens, including undocumented workers, should comply with all international conventions and guidelines, including those not yet formally ratified and adopted by the U.S.;


·        Alien workers in this country should be treated equally under the laws with other workers in the United States.  In particular, aliens should have the same right to collectively bargain and organize in their workplace as afforded other workers.  If employers violate these rights, the alien employees should be entitled to the same legal remedies as citizen and permanent resident alien workers.


·        Immigration control should remain the exclusive responsibility of the federal government.  State and local governments should not enforce immigration laws, because such actions are at odds with local governments’ obligations to protect and serve all residents.


·        Aliens, regardless of immigration status, should be entitled to the same rights as citizens and permanent residents with respect to access to relief services in cases of natural disasters.


·        Alien farmworkers, regardless of immigration status, should be able (if otherwise qualified) to reside in government-funded farmworker rental housing .


·        Aliens, regardless of immigration status, should be able to obtain driver’s licenses.


·        Government enforcement of immigration laws should focus on employers and others who benefit from, and often abuse, alien workers.


·        Whenever the federal government deports an alien, it should take steps to ensure that before the alien departs the U.S., he or she has received all wages due for work in the U.S.


·        Guestworker programs should be designed to protect the rights of both the alien guestworkers and domestic U.S. workers employed in the same industry.


·        Guestworker programs should be amended so that alien workers are not bound to a single employer during the period they are in the United States, because such situations often lead to worker abuse or exploitation.


·        The federal government should expand its current efforts to curb trafficking in aliens.  As part of this effort, visas should be readily available to aliens who agree to cooperate with the federal government in these investigations.


·        Alien guestworkers should be entitled to the same protections under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act as other farmworkers.


·        The United States Department of Labor should apply nationwide the legal principles of the case of Arriaga v. Florida-Pacific Farms, which required employers of guestworkers to reimburse the workers for their inbound travel costs and their visa expenses.


·        The U.S. Department of Labor should resist efforts to reduce or eliminate the adverse effect wage rate paid by employers of guestworkers.  There is no reason to abandon this wage in favor of payment based on the prevailing wage in a specific crop.


·        Aliens who successfully complete several years as lawful guestworkers should be provided with the opportunity to apply for permanent resident status.


·        Alien workers should be able to obtain the benefits of funds withheld from their U.S. wages for Social Security taxes, either by being permitted to obtain Social Security benefits through the U.S. system, or to have these funds transferred to the workers’ account in his or her homeland.