How America Solicits Migrant Labor: The H-2A Visa

With the added influx of Latinos migrating to the U.S. South, one must wonder why these individuals would ever desire to live in an environment where racial and socio-economic prejudice is historically prevalent.  One answer is found within the documentation of the H-2A Visa program, which allowed agricultural employers anticipating a shortage of domestic workers to hire temporary foreign labor in order to complete their work in a cost-efficient manner.  In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the increased implementation of this program in the American South allowed for a subsequent “Latinization” of the region.  There are currently 30,000 temporary workers in the United States that hold this visa.  Thus, while several laws such as the controversial Arizona SB1079 bill have been proposed in many states, it is the states’ own policies that have contributed to the increase in migrant labor for decades.

From a purely economic standpoint, the H-2A visa program seems like a helpful way for American employers to save their companies from decline by hiring foreign laborers that are ready and willing to work for minimal wages.  On a social level, however, the program has formed a highly racialized society that forces Latino migrants to ultimately reshape their identities.  According to University of North Carolina professor, Altha J. Cravey, the H-2A program “creates a gender imbalance by granting temporary visas to male workers yet not to their family members”, which also leads to heightened generational and multi-regional conflicts within the Latino community itself.

In short, the H-2A visa program has allowed thousands of migrants, particularly those from Mexico and other Latino nations, to legally work in the United States. However, the program also represents the source of added social conflicts resulting from the migrant adaptation to a harsh and uncertain lifestyle.

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