I HAVE signed H.R. 2010, legislation governing recruitment of agricultural workers from the Republic of Mexico. I have done so despite the failure to include in the legislation provisions which I believe necessary to protect domestic farm workers.
Studies of the operation of the Mexican labor program have clearly established that it is adversely affecting the wages, working conditions and employment opportunities of our own agricultural workers, large numbers of whom are unemployed or under-employed. The workers most seriously affected are from those underprivileged groups which are already at the bottom of our economic scale; the conditions under which these people work and live are a matter of grave concern to me.
The Secretary of Labor, on the basis of the studies that have been made of the Mexican labor program, proposed amendments to Title V of the Agricultural Act of 1949 designed to provide needed safeguards for our workers and to prescribe more specific standards. While the enactment includes some of these safeguards, a number of the more significant ones have been omitted.
I am aware, however, that some Mexican workers will still be needed next year, in some areas, to supplement our agricultural labor force. I am also aware of the serious impact in Mexico if many thousands of workers employed in this country were summarily deprived of this much-needed employment. These considerations impel me to sign H.R. 2010 despite its shortcomings.
Present law, however, provides broad authority to regulate the conditions under which Mexican workers are to be employed. In particular, existing law authorizes, and indeed requires, the Secretary of Labor to permit the employment of Mexican workers only when he can determine that their admission will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of domestic agricultural workers. This comprehensive, general authority was not changed by H.R. 2010 and its availability was clearly recognized during the legislative consideration of the bill.
The adverse effect of the Mexican farm labor program as it has operated in recent years on the wage and employment conditions of domestic workers is dear and is cumulative in its impact. We cannot afford to disregard it. We do not condone it. Therefore I sign this bill with the assurance that the Secretary of Labor will, by every means at his disposal, use the authority vested in him under the law to prescribe the standards and to make the determinations essential for the protection of the wages and working conditions of domestic agricultural workers.