The Justice Department announced Thursday that it has filed a lawsuit against an agricultural services company for allegedly rejecting American citizen applicants in favor of foreign guest workers.
Colorado-based Crop Production Services Inc. discriminated against at least three U.S. citizens by refusing to employ them as seasonal technicians in Texas, instead hiring temporary foreign workers under the H-2A visa program, according to a complaint filed by DOJ’s civil rights division.
Crop Production allegedly set up burdensome application requirements for U.S. citizens that were not enforced for guest workers. American applicants had to complete a background check and a drug test, while H-2A workers were allowed to begin working without completing a similar screening process, according to the complaint.
Despite the availability of qualified U.S. citizen applicants, all of Crop Production’s 15 available seasonal technician jobs in 2016 went to H-2A workers, DOJ officials said.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the lawsuit reflects the civil rights division’s renewed focus on targeting employers who favor immigrant labor over native workers.
“The Justice Department will enforce the Immigration and Nationality Act in order to protect U.S. workers as they are the very backbone of our communities and our economy,” Sessions said in a statement. “Where there is a job available, U.S. workers should have a chance at it before we bring in workers from abroad.”
The H-2A visa program allows agricultural businesses to bring in seasonal guest workers if they cannot find enough qualified U.S. citizens. Immigration law requires employers to recruit and hire available, qualified U.S. workers before resorting to the H-2A program. A similar program for non-agricultural seasonal labor, the H-2B visa, carries the same protections for U.S citizen workers. (RELATED: Wage Data Undercuts Claims Of Worker Shortage In Seasonal Jobs)
Under Sessions, who is the Trump administration’s most enthusiastic proponent of tough immigration enforcement, the DOJ has made a priority of targeting companies that use the guest worker programs to avoid hiring American applicants. The Civil Rights Division in March established the Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative to investigate employment discrimination on the basis of U.S. citizenship.
Thursday’s lawsuit is the first brought against a U.S. business under the initiative. A DOJ official said the Civil Rights Division has opened 29 investigations of “potential discrimination against U.S. workers based on a hiring preference for foreign visa workers,” according to Fox News.
In a settlement reached with DOJ last month, a Louisiana company agreed to pay $100,000 to 12 American it passed over in favor of H-2B guest workers.
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