Richard T. Foltin, Esq.
Director of National and Legislative Affairs
Office of Government and International Affairs
American Jewish Committee
Submitted on behalf of the American Jewish Committee to
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement
“Regional Perspectives on Agricultural Guestworker Programs”
February 9, 2012
From its founding in 1906, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) has been a strong voice in
support of fair and generous treatment of immigrants, participating actively in many of the major
immigration debates of our time. AJC believes that immigration is fundamentally good for the U.S.
economy and consistent with Jewish values. History has demonstrated that immigrants enrich this
nation economically and culturally, and that immigration remains a central ingredient in bolstering
America's economic strength and its proud tradition of democratic pluralism. Comprehensive reform of
our nation’s broken immigration system will strengthen our nation’s economy by creating a pathway for
undocumented workers to transition into legal taxpayers, ensure that American businesses have the
skilled and unskilled labor they need to compete in a global economy, and encourage foreign-born
entrepreneurs to start new businesses and stimulate job growth in the U.S. Fair and generous
immigration policies will strengthen our nation’s global competiveness, even as a comprehensive
overhaul of our immigration system will give our country the flexible and forward looking policies we
need to succeed in the future.
According to a CATO Institute report, legalization of immigrants would yield significant income
gains for American workers and households. The study found that legalization of low-skilled
immigrant workers would result in an income gain of 1.27 percent of GDP or $180 billion for American
households. Studies have also found that immigrants give a slight boost to the wages of most Americans
by increasing their productivity and stimulating investment. Furthermore, increasing the visas
available to high and low-skilled immigrant workers would benefit American businesses by providing a
sustainable, reliable and competitive workforce.
Addressing the low-skilled labor demands of the agricultural industry, AJC has in past years
supported the Agricultural Jobs, Opportunity, Benefits and Security Act (AGJOBS), a bill that would
grant earned legalization to undocumented agricultural workers based both on past agricultural work in
the U.S. and a prospective work requirement. In addition, taking into account heightened security
concerns, the program would require background checks of applicants. Further, temporary residents who
fail to fulfill the agricultural work requirements or are inadmissible under immigration law or have been
convicted of a felony or three or more misdemeanors would be denied adjustment to permanent resident
status and would be subject to removal.
AJC recognizes that these seasonal agricultural workers, due to their migrant status, are highly
vulnerable to economic exploitation and denial of their civil rights, with little ability to defend
themselves. We support AgJOBS because it represents a step forward in putting such workers on the
path to eligibility for earned legalization and citizenship, better protecting their rights, their access to our
legal system and their stake in our society. We do not, however, support the “American Specialty
Agriculture Act” (H.R. 2847), legislation that would create a new “H-2C” visa for temporary
agricultural workers to replace the existing H-2A program. The proposed H-2C program would allow
growers to bring in up to 500,000 temporary workers each year, but would also gut wages and worker
protections, which is a serious concern to AJC. AJC also opposes the “Legal Workforce Act” (H.R.
2164), a mandatory E-Verify bill that would be permanently damaging to farm workers and farmers
throughout the country. Also, both of these bills are stand-alone measures that do nothing to overhaul
our broken immigration system. The American Specialty Agricultural Act and the Legal Workforce Act
fail to offer a realistic pathway to legal status for the roughly 11 million unauthorized immigrants, do
nothing to reduce the backlogs in the family-based immigration system, and they do nothing to create a
flexible future flows system.
In short, adoption of an agricultural program that would allow the agricultural industry to meet
their low-skilled labor demands while protecting their workforce from abuse and providing a path to
citizenship for these hard-working low-skilled immigrants would ensure that American businesses have
the labor they need to compete in a global economy and would help to create a fair and generous U.S.
immigration policy would not only reflect our highest values of freedom, opportunity, and family
cohesion, but also benefit our nation materially. In enacting a practical solution to America’s
agricultural labor crisis, AJC urges the members of this committee to support a bill such as AgJOBS,
which will strengthen our nation’s economy and provide a fair pathway to citizenship for a critical sector
of the U.S. workforce.
AJC appreciates the opportunity to submit this statement and welcomes your questions and
 Dixon, Peter B. and Maureen T. Rimmer, "Restriction or Legalization? Measuring the Economic Benefits of Immigration Reform."
August 13, 2009, p. 1, http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10438 (accessed August 2, 2011).
 Giovanni, Peri, “Rethinking the Effects of Immigration on Wages: New Data and Analysis from 1990 -2004”, October 2006,
p. 6, http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/sites/default/files/ docs/IPC%20Rethinking%20Wages,%2011-2006.pdf> < http://
www.immigrationpolicy.org/sites/default/files/docs/IPC%20 Rethinking%20Wages,%2011-2006.pdf (accessed August 2,