Michael Chertoff’s suggestions for reaching a compromise on immigration legislation [“Reforming immigration reform,” Washington Forum, Feb. 15] included a double standard that leads to an inappropriate policy choice.
Mr. Chertoff asserted that undocumented workers pursuing legalized immigration status and citizenship should not have their applications placed “before others who waited in compliance with the law.” But many employers have not followed the law and have benefited from undocumented workers’ labor. Nowhere is this more apparent than in agriculture.
There are roughly 2.4 million farmworkers in the United States, and more than half are undocumented. Despite claims by growers of farm-labor shortages, only a small percentage of agricultural employers have applied for permission to hire foreign citizens under the H-2A agricultural guest-worker program, which has an unlimited number of seasonal work visas available each year. Instead, fruit and vegetable growers hire undocumented workers, thereby avoiding the government oversight and labor standards in the H-2A program.
Given these circumstances, it seems illogical to punish both the people who put food on our table and their children by imposing a long-term limbo status, during which they would lack the stability needed to improve their working and living conditions.
There is enough blame to go around, but it is clearly time to solve the problem. Undocumented workers in agriculture and elsewhere should be offered a reasonable and prompt path to immigration status and citizenship.
Bruce Goldstein, Washington
The writer is president of Farmworker Justice.