SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — A consistent stream of men walking at a brisk pace pulling and lugging suitcases makes its way to a small area where buses are lined up ready to pick them up just north of the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
It’s the time of year for hundreds of thousands of men and women who are part of the U.S. Seasonal Worker Program, also known as the National Farmworker Jobs Program, to be brought in to work in fields, farms and plants throughout the United States.
They are provided with H-2A visas that allow them to work legally north of the border.
Seasonal workers preparing to board buses just north of the San Ysidro Port of Entry. (Salvador Rivera/Border Report)
On Wednesday, Border Report encountered a group of about 500 men who were bound for the state of Washington to work in the apple orchards.
Among them was Pablo Tapia.
“I’m here out of necessity,” Tapia said in Spanish. “There is some work in Mexico but it’s inconsistent and it doesn’t pay well, you’re not going to make the money you can by working up here.”
Tapia told Border Report he’s been coming to the U.S. as a seasonal worker for six years.
“You want to get ahead and accomplish something, have enough to buy some land back in Mexico have something for my kids to inherit.”
This time around, Tapia won’t be back home until November.
“It’s very difficult because I have small children and I have to leave them behind along with my wife and everything I know.”
According to the Wilson Center, a “non-partisan” policy forum that focuses on global issues such as worldwide employment, 317,000 H-2A visas were issued in 2021, up 15 percent from the previous year.
The United States Department of Agriculture mandates employers that hire H-2A workers must pay at least a state-specific minimum wage.
In California for example, the pay rate for H-2A workers was $14.77 in 2020 and $16.05 in 2021.
In 2022, the state’s H-2A workers in California are expected to see a $2.74 hourly jump from the 2020 rate for an hourly pay of $17.51