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DOL/ETA RIN: 1205-AB55 Publication ID: Fall 2009 
Title: Temporary Agricultural Employment of H-2A Aliens in the United States 
Abstract: The Department of Labor (the Department of DOL) proposes to amend its regulations governing the certification of temporary employment of nonimmigrant workers in temporary or seasonal agricultural employment and the enforcement of the contractual obligations applicable to employers of such nonimmigrant workers. This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would reexamine the process by which employers obtain a temporary labor certification from the Department for use in petitioning the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to employ a nonimmigrant worker in H-2A status. 
Agency: Department of Labor(DOL)  Priority: Other Significant 
RIN Status: Previously published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Final Rule Stage 
Major: No  Unfunded Mandates: No 
CFR Citation: 20 CFR 655 
Legal Authority: 8 USC 1101(a)(15)(H)(ii)(a); 8 USC 1188 
Legal Deadline:  None

Statement of Need: The Department has determined for a variety of reasons that a new rulemaking effort is necessary for the H-2A program. The Department believes that the policy underpinnings of the 2008 Final Rule, e.g., streamlining the H-2A regulatory process to defer many determinations of program compliance until after an application has been fully adjudicated, do not provide an adequate level of protection for either U.S. or foreign workers. In addition, the Department’s experience under the program since January 2009 demonstrates that the policy goals of the 2008 Final Rule have not been met. One of the clear goals of the 2008 Final Rule was to increase the use of the H-2A program and to make the program easier and more affordable to use for the average employer. However, applications have actually decreased since the implementation of the new program. Not only has usage not increased under the program revisions, there has actually been a reversal of an existing multi-year trend toward increased program use. While factors other than the regulatory changes may play a role in this decrease, the Department can not justify the significant decrease in worker protections if the prior rules’ goal of increasing program use is not being accomplished. The Department believes that there are insufficient worker protections in the attestation-based model in which employers merely confirm, and do not actually demonstrate, that they have performed an adequate test of the U.S. labor market. Even in the first year of the attestation model, it has come to the Department’s attention that employers, either from a lack of understanding or otherwise, are attesting to compliance with program obligations with which they have not complied. Such non-compliance appears to be sufficiently substantial and widespread for the Department to revisit the use of attestations, even with the use of back-end integrity measures for demonstrated non-compliance. The Department has also determined that the area in which agricultural workers are most vulnerable – wages – has been adversely impacted to a far more significant extent than anticipated by the 2008 Final Rule. The shift from the AEWR as calculated under the 1987 Rule to the AEWR of the 2008 Final Rule resulted in a substantial reduction of farmworker wages in a number of labor categories, and the obvious effects of that reduction on the workers' and their families' ability to meet necessary costs is an important concern.

Summary of the Legal Basis: These proposed regulations are authorized under Section 101(a)(15)(H)(ii)(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended. 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(H)(ii)(a); see also 8 U.S.C. 1184(c)(1) and 1188.

Alternatives: The Department took into account both the regulations promulgated in 1987, as well as the significant reworking of the regulations in the 2008 Final Rule, in order to arrive at a balance between the worker protections of the 1987 Rule and the program integrity measures of the 2008 Final Rule.

Anticipated Costs and Benefits: Preliminary estimates of the anticipated monetized costs of this proposed regulatory action are $10.56 million in 2009 to $18.07 million in 2018. A final estimate of costs and benefits will be prepared at the Final Rule stage in response to public comments.

Timetable:
Action Date FR Cite
NPRM  02/13/2008  73 FR 8538 
NPRM Comment Period End  03/31/2008   
NPRM Comment Period Extended  04/14/2008  73 FR 16243 
Final Rule  12/18/2008  73 FR 77110 
Final Rule Effective  01/17/2009   
Notice of Proposed Suspension  03/17/2009  74 FR 11408 
Comment Period End  03/27/2009   
Notice of Final Suspension  05/29/2009  74 FR 25972 
NPRM  09/04/2009  74 FR 45905 
NPRM Comment Period End  10/05/2009   
NPRM Comment Period Extended  10/20/2009  74 FR 50929 
Final Rule  02/00/2010   
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: No  Government Levels Affected: Federal, State 
Small Entities Affected: Businesses  Federalism: No 
Included in the Regulatory Plan: Yes 
RIN Data Printed in the FR: No 
Agency Contact:
William L. Carlson Ph.D.
Administrator, Office of Foreign Labor Certification
Department of Labor
Employment and Training Administration
FP Building, Room C-4312, 200 Constitution Avenue NW.,
Washington, DC 20210
Phone:202 693-3010
Email: carlson.william@dol.gov

 
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