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U.S. Looks to Canada for Immigration Reform Ideas

U.S. Looks to Canada for Immigration Reform Ideas

By Amanda Brodhagen,

Lawmakers in the United States are looking to Canada because of its Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, as a model to help draft the agricultural component of its immigration reform bill.

The U.S. Senate passed a version that would allow about 337,000 foreign workers to obtain a three-year work visa for farm related work. The Democrat controlled Senate, also passed a provision in the bill that would streamline a path to citizenship for undocumented agricultural workers.

A House version of the bill, which is still being debated, would allow about 500,000 workers a year up to 18-months for seasonal agricultural work and up to three years for non-seasonal work. The Senate also has passed a provision that would provide an accelerated path to citizenship for undocumented agricultural workers. The House bill does not provide a path to citizenship.

Meanwhile in Canada, the established Agricultural Workers Program, which was created in 1966 as a bilateral agreement with Jamaica, allows an eight-month contract for foreign workers who are willing to work in agricultural type jobs, which are hard to fill domestically. This program guarantees housing, health care, wage standards and some reimbursement for travel. These core expectations provide protections for employers and workers.

The U.S. is looking at Canada’s success with its Agricultural Workers Program, but many lawmakers note replicating a similar program using bilateral agreements would be difficult to apply in the United States. Under Canada’s framework, liaison from the visiting countries oversee workers payments, work conditions, housing accommodations and basic health needs. Despite some obvious issues of replicating the Canadian model in the U.S., policy makers are giving it a look, to conjure up ideas for its own agriculture foreign worker framework.