The Wall Street Journal explains:
The tight labor market explains why farm groups are pressing Congress to include, in any immigration overhaul, provisions that would ensure a steady flow of workers and prevent an exodus of newly legalized laborers from the sector. Under one possible scenario, agriculture workers would earn permanent legal residency by working a certain number of days on farms each year; those who worked longer would get a green card sooner.
"It's important that existing experienced workers be encouraged to remain in the agriculture sector for a while," says Craig Regelbrugge, national co-chairman of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform. A Senate immigration proposal, which could be in a bill next month, calls for stabilizing the current workforce and establishing a new temporary-worker program.
Ah, there's our old friend Regelbrugge, who has apparently recovered from getting trounced in our debate last year.
At the very least this should take the libertarian sheen off the farm labor debate. The farm lobby is not demanding open borders. It is demanding cheap labor, even if it means government forcing immigrants into a new form of indentured servitude.
The implications of this policy would be very disturbing. Obviously, the ability of farm workers to negotiate for fair wages would be greatly handicapped because the cost of not working would be the loss of access to legal residency. This is a subsidy for farm owners disguised as immigration reform.
What would happen to workers who shirked the mandatory labor or fled the farm? No doubt there would be calls for the government to strictly enforce the farm labor requirement. We already have a lot of experience with rounding up fugitive agricultural workers. It isn't exactly a national policy most folks would care to brag about.
Most likely, of course, farm owners will simply get around the problem of the flight of newly legal workers from farms by importing new illegal workers. This is exactly what happened after the last amnesty, when illegal immigration grew rather than shrank (as policymakers promised it would).