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U.S. Government and your tax dollars are paying for 'safe housing' for migrant farm workers

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 16th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Forty million dollars has been allotted for "safe housing" for itinerant farm workers and their families, the U.S. Agriculture Department. The USDA maintains that it remains focused on strengthening the rural economy, in spite of "budget uncertainties."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "The intended purpose of these loans and grants is to increase the number of available housing units for domestic farm laborers, a notice read in the Federal Register.

A "domestic farm laborer" is defined as either a citizen of the U.S. or someone who has been "legally admitted for permanent residence," according to federal law. Farm workers who are admitted under the Temporary Agricultural Workers or H-2A Visa program are not eligible for the housing.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has urged Congress to pass an immigration bill that would put millions of illegal aliens on the path to U.S. citizenship.

"USDA's Farm Labor Housing Program is the only national source of construction funds to buy, build or improve housing for farm workers, who are critical to the tremendous productivity of American agriculture," Vilsack said.

"This program is an important way that USDA helps to ensure the well-being of itinerant farm labor families. Looking ahead to the future, we will also continue to urge passage of common sense immigration reform that will create rules that work for farm workers and producers alike."

Vilsack says the program would ensure the stable agricultural workforce that U.S. agriculture needs.

The Senate-passed immigration bill includes special programs for undocumented farm workers. Workers would be made eligible for a "blue card" that would allow them to apply for legal status: If they have continued to work in agriculture for five years, have paid their taxes and pay applicable fines. The workers could then apply for citizenship after being permanent residents for five years.

Between 2007 and 2009, 48 percent of hired crop farm workers were undocumented aliens. According to the U.S. Labor Department's National Agricultural Workers Survey, 18 percent had green cards, 33 percent were U.S. citizens and 68percent were from Mexico.

Under the USDA's Farm Labor Housing Program, loans and grants are provided to farmers and farm workers' associations, family farm corporations, Indian tribes, nonprofit organizations, and public agencies to develop or improve multi-family housing facilities for farm workers and their families.

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