But some lawmakers say the system is outdated and broken. A Virginia congressman has unveiled a bill to replace H-2As with a new program called H-2C.
The U.S. Department of Labor oversees the H-2A program. But a draft of the H-2C bill would put it under the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Labor Department looks out for workers, while the Department of Agriculture favors farmers, who don’t want to deal with the American labor force, said David North, fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies.
“They want a pliable labor force that will disappear at the end of the season,” North said. “And will not organize. And will not do anything outrageous like ask that the health and safety laws be enforced."
North worked for the Labor Department in the 1960s.
The farm lobby has spent decades trying to get the guestworker program moved to the Department of Agriculture, North said. He expects efforts to continue if the H-2C bill ultimately fails.