The replenishment agricultural worker (RAW) legalization program, established by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), was designed to provide immigration benefits to farm workers who entered the country after a shortage of agricultural workers was deemed to have occurred. During the four-year span of the program, between fiscal years 1990-1993, a shortage did not occur. However, had workers been needed, they would have received favorable immigration treatment. For example, not only would they have received temporary U.S. residency followed by permanent residency, the terms of their employment and stays in the U.S. would have been quite broad.
Outside of eventual legalization, perhaps the most obvious benefits RAWs would have received related to employment. First, once RAW status was granted, workers would have received work authorizations. Although they would have been required to work in seasonal agricultural services for three years, they would not have been restricted to any certain crop or shortage area.
The IRCA defined seasonal agricultural services as fieldwork related to growing and harvesting fruits, vegetables, and “other perishable commodities.” Fruits and vegetables included plants and grains grown for human consumption, corn, cut flowers, groundnuts, Christmas trees, and many other perishable commodities. “Other perishable commodities” included those produced via seasonal field work that could not be predicted, usually due to the weather, with any certainty 60 days in advance of the need for labor. To avoid deportation, RAWs would have had to work at least 90 man-days in seasonal agricultural services each year for the three years after they received temporary resident status.
RAWs would also have received protection from retaliation and protection from employer-provided misinformation. However, agricultural employers would have been permitted to pay RAWs less than the market rate, as there were no adverse effect wage protections in place.
RAWs would also have been entitled to benefits relating to residence, travel, and public assistance. They would have been allowed to live inside or outside the U.S., and they would have received travel authorizations permitting them to travel abroad during their periods of temporary residence. Additionally, their status as temporary U.S. residents could only have been upset upon findings that they were deportable. However, as with applicants of most legalization programs, they would not have been eligible for most public assistance programs, except for food stamps, free legal assistance, and housing.
Permanent Residency and Naturalization
The most significant benefits RAWs would have received were eventual permanent residency and naturalization. First, after working the requisite amount of time for three years in seasonal agricultural services, RAWs would have been eligible for permanent resident status. Adjustment of status to that of permanent residents would not have been a matter of discretion, but one of right, after the adjustment criteria were met. Second, after a permanent resident RAW worked at least 90 man-days in seasonal agricultural services, he or she could have petitioned for an adjustment of status to that of a naturalized U.S. citizen.