People of Northwest Public Radio
Foreign Worker Visas
Wed July 30, 2014
Northwest Farmers Worried About Visa Backup For Legal Migrant Workers
A breakdown in a government computer system that processes foreign worker visas has sowed major worries at some Northwest orchards. Those farmers are concerned about getting enough pickers for late summer and fall crops.
The problem started with a glitch in a database the U.S. State Department uses to issue immigration visas. This includes entry permits for legal migrant farm workers. The State Department says the snafu is being fixed. Meanwhile, there’s a growing backlog at U.S. consulates in Mexico. Dan Fazio directs the Washington Farm Labor Association.
“Employers are concerned about getting workers here for the apple crop,” Fazio said. “Beyond that, the farmers are investing hundreds of thousands of dollars to do it the right way, so the farmers are anxious, frustrated and mad.”
Fortunately, Fazio says the majority of temporary foreign guest workers recruited to work on Northwest farms this year has already arrived. But he estimates up to 2,000 more still need to cross. Fazio’s association has spent recent days calling and writing the congressional delegation and state department pleading for farmhands to receive immigration priority.
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