By DAN WHEAT
A tree fruit grower in Central Washington and a fruit and vegetable grower in Western Oregon are testing a way to hire workers on H-2A guest visas.
The growers are nervous and do not want to be identified because the workers may have been deported or have questionable prior immigration status, said Dan Fazio, director of the Washington Farm Labor Association in Olympia.
Fazio and Dan Roach, a Yakima labor attorney, believe an Obama administration waiver of a rule can be used to allow illegal immigrants to be hired under the H-2A program.
With the association's help the two growers are testing the idea this spring. If it works it could be used more widely next year, Fazio said.
When the growers complete the labor shortage certification process with the U.S. Department of Labor they will apply for a 212(D3) waiver from Citizenship and Immigration Services.
In December, the Obama administration decided to allow people applying for green cards to also apply for amnesty from the so-called "3/10 bar," a rule requiring them to leave the country for three to 10 years, if they are the sole supporter of a U.S. citizen. People can be authorized to stay in the U.S. while waiting for their amnesty.
The waiver may not be granted the first time through and timing is key, Fazio said. It needs to coincide with the H-2A application so the grower can get the workers when he needs them, Fazio said.
To get the waiver, workers must be willing to come to the U.S. on the H-2A work visa for a set number of months and return to their home country, Fazio said. If that country is Mexico, workers in the U.S. would have to go to a U.S. consulate in Mexico to get their H-2A visas, Fazio said.
Gov. Chris Gregoire and Democrat and Republican members of the state's congressional delegation support the Labor Association's effort to get the 212(D3) waivers for H-2A workers, Fazio said.