H-2A Agricultural Guestworker Program

Response to Additional Questions Gao ID: HEHS-98-120R April 2, 1998

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO addressed congressional concerns on its work on the Department of Labor's H-2A program, focusing on clarifying aspects of the report, including the definitions of certain terms it used, the data it reviewed, and its general analytical approach.

GAO noted that: (1) to enable GAO to assess Labor's performance in meeting the H-2A program's statutory and regulatory deadlines, Labor collected data from its regional offices and provided those data to GAO; (2) in addition, GAO independently collected and analyzed data from Labor's regional offices; (3) GAO is unaware of any efforts by Labor to contact the Department of Agriculture (USDA) or to respond to USDA's review of GAO's draft report; (4) one component of GAO's analysis was a review of county unemployment rates but not the raw data--that is, the number of unemployed persons--behind those rates; (5) the five Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) worksite enforcement efforts were conducted not only in Georgia but also in Alabama and North and South Carolina; (6) during its review, GAO consulted the INS district office in Atlanta, which said that officials there rarely conducted inspections at agricultural worksites and, given the agency's inspection priorities, have no plans to do so in the near future; (7) INS completed 6,804 worksite enforcement investigations in all industries in fiscal year 1997; (8) of these, 89, or 1.3 percent, were in the Atlanta district, which includes North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia; (9) forty-seven of the 89 inspections were in Georgia, and 6 of 89 were in agriculture; (10) of the 41 investigations at nonagricultural worksites for which INS provided location information within the state, 10, or 24 percent, were in zip code areas designated by the 1990 census as entirely urban; 25, or 61 percent, were in areas designated as both urban and rural; and 6, or 15 percent, were in areas designated as rural; (11) GAO spoke with numerous government officials at agencies and regional district offices at both the federal and state levels; (12) GAO also spoke with 76 growers in 15 states; (13) in addition, GAO was in continuous contact with staff of the many members of Congress who had expressed an interest in its review of the H-2A program; (14) an employer who hires illegal aliens who present documentation will be abiding by the law unless he or she knows, or should know, based on an apparent irregularity in the alien's documentation, that the alien is in this country illegal; (15) INS primarily targets only employers known to have intentionally hired illegal workers, to have been involved in criminal wrongdoing like alien smuggling, to be prior offenders, or to have subjected their employees to substandard working conditions.

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