H(ell)-2 Visa Program

The H-2 visa program, which grants visas for noncitizens to perform unskilled agricultural labor in the United States, is one that is often contended. Many argue that it takes jobs away from United States citizens who would otherwise receive employment, while its supporters assert that it is only used for jobs that United States citizens will not take. While the existence of the visa itself is problematic, the real controversy lies with the employers who use the visa to hire noncitizens.

The Department of Labor has certain processes that an employer must initiate to hire noncitizens under an H-2 visa, which includes advertising the job in a newspaper, interviewing qualified United States citizens, and, occasionally, hiring a certain number of United States Citizens. These processes are often circumvented with loopholes that are widely practiced by agricultural employers. Specifically, employers will place ads in distant newspapers with low readership, advertise the jobs to sound unbearable, and create qualifications that are meant to eliminate those who would be seeking agricultural employment. United States citizens who are chosen for interviews are asked to perform impossible tasks or take certain personality tests that the noncitizens are not subject to.

One may find hiring a noncitizen to be counter-intuitive because the process is complex and is often more expensive than hiring citizens. The answer lies in the ability for the employer to control the noncitizens versus the ability to control a citizen employee. Employers claim that the noncitizens will work harder than citizens, but this is often by force. Many employers offer the noncitizens housing that the citizens find, upon arrival, is similar to prisons. Employees then must work harder to make extra funds to find livable housing, which they were told would be provided. Further, cases have arisen when employers refuse to allow the noncitizens to leave the grounds even after their shifts have ended, which instills a sense that the workers have lost their rights as individuals and now belong solely to the employer’s workforce.

By: Earl “Trey” DeBrine