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As Arizona gets more guest farmworkers, labor officials pitch more protections for H2A visa holders

Federal labor officials are pitching new protections for guest farmworkers authorized to work in the United States with H2A visas.

Arizona is on track to host more than 10,000 of those laborers in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

Potential guest farmworker protections such as blocking employers from confiscating passports, visas and other forms of identification are detailed in a new 300-plus-page document.

Amanda Caldwell, managing attorney for the farmworker program at Community Legal Services, said despite the presence of domestic workers a growing number of Arizona employers are applying for H2A labor.

“In many ways it’s kind of a workforce that has to stay stagnant throughout the season,” said Caldwell.

Because H2A workers can’t choose to leave for a different job with better pay or conditions.

Another proposed reform is to let guest farmworkers invite union representatives to visit them at employer-provided housing.

One more example is to clarify that an H2A worker can only be fired for cause through progressive discipline or if they don’t meet production standards.

“There’s been an enormous increase in the use of H2A workers across the nation and here in Arizona as well,” said Caldwell.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.