Originally created 04/18/99

Consul: Program working



STATESBORO, Ga. -- The Mexican consul to Georgia says a federal program that allows temporary visas to immigrants for migrant farm work is accomplishing its goal.

Teodoro Maus said Friday at a forum concerning migrant workers and the state's Vidalia onion industry that the federal H-2A visa law makes economic sense for both farmers and workers.

"The employers with great difficulty are accepting that they should take H-2A workers, because the law itself is very good, but the carrying out is also complicated," Mr. Maus said. "And I think they don't realize that economically it is also better."

The law was enacted in 1986 to allow farmers to get the labor necessary to harvest their crop.

It requires farmers who hire such temporary immigrants to provide adequate housing, transportation to the nearest town once a week, worker accident insurance, and a wage of at least $6.30 an hour.

That wage is $1.15 more than that of the minimum for domestic seasonal workers in Georgia.

The jobs must be advertised for two weeks so citizens and permanent residents can apply first.

United Farm Workers Regional Director Frank Curiel said the union wants to do away with the rule. Instead, those workers who are in the country illegally should be granted amnesty -- which was done in 1986 -- and the borders should be sealed.

While supporting current regulations, Mr. Maus said the United States must change its attitude about farm workers and view them as people and not just cheap labor.