Changing Demographics: H-2A & H-2B Job Orders and the Migrant Education Program

The Migrant Education Program (MEP) is authorized by Title 1, Part C of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, as amended, and funds high-quality education programs for migratory farmworkers and their children. ESCORT provides technical assistance and project management for MEPs across the country. For more information about the services that ESCORT provides regarding the MEP, visit our  Identification & Recruitment and  Program Implementation pages.

The demographics of migratory farmworkers and fishers throughout the country are changing, with that, MEP identification and recruitment (ID&R) practices need to change as well. One example where we see a change in the demographics is the increase in migratory farmworkers and fishers arriving in the United States via the H-2A and H-2B temporary visa programs.

ESCORT will be releasing four short articles regarding the H-2A & H-2B temporary visa programs over the next few weeks. These articles will include an overview of the programs, how the programs may be affecting the MEP, how to recruit students who work in these programs, and, ultimately, how the MEP can serve these students.

Stay tuned for more articles coming out soon!

Part 2: H-2A, H-2B, and the MEP

Most, if not all, of the agricultural activity under the H-2A program would be designated as "qualifying work" as defined by the MEP but only certain types of activities under the H2-B program fit the definition. However, the MEP should be familiar with both programs and learn if there are any employers in the state, region, or district that use these temporary visa programs to bring in labor.

Since farmers and other employers are relying more on these programs, it is up to the MEP to adjust their ID&R practices to find all the eligible students in their state, region, or district. MEP eligibility can be complex; however, one of the requirements is that the worker must be under 22 years of age. Many of the workers that come through these visa programs are single, older men but plenty of workers do fit the age criterion.

These workers are not found in schools, they have no family within the school system, and they are, oftentimes, hidden in the community, in addition to facing all the other barriers that migratory students face. Since they are not found through typical school-based ID&R practices, MEPs have may have a harder time recruiting these younger workers into the program. Even after they are recruited, they are more difficult to serve because they do not attend traditional brick and mortar schools for educational services and need to be served in their homes, camps, or communities.

Declining MEP Numbers

The MEP has seen a consistent decline in overall child counts within the past few school years. There could be many reasons why the child counts are dropping (changing demographics, traditional migrant families aging out of the program, migratory children breaking the cycle of migration, etc.) but the MEP still needs to identify and recruit all of the eligible children in the state.

MEP child counts

While traditional migratory families may not be moving as much, the H-2A and H-2B programs continue to grow. Therefore, the MEP needs to dedicate time to identifying and recruiting H-2A and H-2B guest workers. The individuals that qualify through these programs are recruited into the MEP as out-of-school youth, referred to as OSY since they are not enrolled in school. The recruitment of OSY has consistently declined during the past four years while the H-2A and H-2B programs have grown during this time.

MEP students by age

Given that the H-2A program, in particular, is growing at an incredible rate and the H-2B program is consistently over its cap, it is wise for the MEP to invest significant time identifying and recruiting these students. Perhaps, if these programs are recruited successfully, the OSY student count in the MEP will follow the rise of the H-2A & H-2B worker programs.

Check back soon for our article about ID&R Strategies for the H-2A & H-2B programs.