Perdue, Loeffler seek flexibility in farmworker visas amid coronavirus outbreak
By Dave Williams
Capitol Beat News Service
ATLANTA – Georgia’s two U.S. senators and 15 of their congressional colleagues are working to make sure the coronavirus pandemic isn’t allowed to stem the flow of temporary agricultural workers into the U.S.
Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler have signed onto a bipartisan letter dated Thursday asking Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia to take steps to ensure access to temporary farm workers.
“We understand the importance of maintaining public health safety during this time and appreciate the administration’s actions to minimize the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” the senators wrote. “However, there are substantial national security concerns that will arise should our farmers not have the labor they need.
“Food security is national security. We believe suspending visa services that our farmers rely on will be detrimental to families across our nation trying to put food on the table.”
The letter follows this week’s decision by the federal government to put new restrictions on the temporary farmworker program. While interviews are not being conducted of farmworkers from Mexico who wish to enter the U.S., guest workers who have previously worked in this country under the program can be granted interview waivers if their visas expired within the past year.
The letter goes on to urge the Cabinet members to provide maximum flexibility to consulate staff in processing applications for H-2A visas while putting protocols in place to protect public health in the U.S. if coronavirus cases increase in Mexico or other countries that participate in the visa program.
Perdue and Loeffler were joined as signatories on the letter by 12 other Republican senators, two Democratic senators and a GOP member of the U.S. House of Representatives.