I-9 Audits, and New H-2 Bills in the News
Local reports from Minnesota’s Twin Cities metro area suggest a cluster of I-9 audits affecting horticulture businesses is now underway, much like the June, 2018 audits and a high-profile raid that impacted businesses and workers in northern Ohio. AmericanHort has collaborated with our Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association partner to provide compliance advice. Member employers are encouraged to ensure that I-9 records and practices are in order. We have guidance available for members.
In other workforce-related news, on June 18, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the “Paperwork Reduction for Farmers and H-2A Modernization Act” (S.1887). The bill includes several helpful reforms to the H-2A program, but is far from a comprehensive program overhaul. It also proposes to allow the landscape industry and other related industries to access the H-2A program. Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS) and four other Members introduced the identical bill (H.R. 3319) in the House. We view the bills as generally helpful markers, but do not expect them to advance.
The bills would do the following:
- Allow landscape, livestock (including dairy, cattle, and poultry) and equine, aquacultural, and forestry conservation workers to be eligible to apply for participation in the uncapped H- 2A program;
- Create an expedited application process for returning workers;
- Allow growers to apply for workers with staggered start and end dates on the same application;
- Require the Department of Labor (DOL) to create an online application process and require U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to create an online Request for Evidence (RFE) system;
- Require the government to promptly provide a reason for a denial or delay to the employer, and to provide a reasonable time for the employer to remedy the problem;
- Ensure that an employer who uses a third-party preparer to file an application files paperwork for the wrong program, will not face penalties, civil or criminal, for document fraud so long as the employer can demonstrate a reasonable belief the application was accurate and complied with statutory requirements.