01/18/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Bush Midnight Regulations Drive Down Wages, Working Conditions

Aiming to ease farm labor shortages, the Bush administration issued sweeping changes to the nation's agricultural guest worker program Thursday, but California growers said the action would have only a minimal effect on their needs.

The controversial rules, many months in the making by U.S. labor and immigration officials, would streamline the guest worker application process, revise the way wages are calculated, and modify requirements for demonstrating that a labor shortage cannot be filled with U.S. workers, among other changes. Congress' failure to pass a comprehensive immigration bill, along with crackdowns on illegal immigrants, stimulated efforts to alter the guest worker program.

Several farm labor advocates attacked the changes, saying they would drive down wages, displace U.S. workers and reduce federal oversight of potential abuses.

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