While most visas during the pandemic were curtailed, the federal government, which during the current administration has long opposed undocumented immigrants entering the country, allowed the H-2A visa program to continue. The program, which allows temporary farm workers to enter the country, has flourished, partly due to an aging rural workforce, and partly due to the current administration's declaration that such workers were essential to the food supply chain. Guest workers are tied to the employers who sponsor them during their short-term of employment, and are supposed to be ensured of decent working conditions, fair pay and safe housing, but the program has been vulnerable to abuse. Federal data from last year found that that there 431 cases of H-2A violations, with nearly 5,000 H-2A employees bilked out of their wages. The pandemic has increased the health and safety risks for temporary workers, who are transported together to crowded housing conditions, where large numbers of employees have caught Covid-19 in states such as California, Washington, and Michigan.
See Suzy Khimm and Daniella Silva, NBC News, July 29, 2020