Mendoza v. Perez

754 F.3d 1002 (D.C. Cir. 2014)


The H-2A visa program permits employers to hire foreign workers to perform temporary agricultural work in the United States. An employer seeking to hire H-2A foreign workers must first seek certification from the Department of Labor that (1) there are not sufficient qualified and willing U.S. workers to fill open positions and (2) hiring foreign workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. D has adopted regulations by notice-and-comment rulemaking that govern the H-2A certification process. The regulations were most recently amended, again through notice-and-comment procedures, in 2010. D sets minimum terms and conditions employers must offer workers to determine the availability of American workers to fill employers' jobs. The regulations also establish procedures for employers seeking H-2A certification to advertise open positions. Qualified U.S. workers responding to these job offers must be given priority over foreign workers. Even after an employer hires foreign laborers, the employer must continue to provide its American and foreign workers the minimum wages and working conditions laid out in the regulations to ensure the employment of foreign workers does not adversely affect the terms of employment of similarly employed American workers. Employers seeking certification are required to pay the higher of the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR), the prevailing wage, or the legal minimum wage. 20 C.F.R. § 655.120(a). The  AEWR is a specially calculated wage based on the Department of Agriculture's Farm Labor Survey, which approximates what the prevailing wage would be if not for the hiring of foreign workers. The H-2A regulations allow the Administrator of the Office of Foreign Labor Certification to create special procedures for processing certain H-2A applications. This 'special procedures' exception predated and was continued in, the 2010 version of the H-2A regulations. D issued two Training and Employment Guidance Letters (TEGLs) providing special procedures for certain H-2A certifications. It published the TEGLs in the Federal Register without having gone through the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) notice and comment procedures. The letters directly involve cattle herders, sheepherding, and goat herding operations. D believes that the unique occupational characteristics of herding-including spending extended periods in isolated areas and being on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to protect livestock-make special H-2A procedures necessary. The TEGLs establish significantly different procedures for herder employers seeking H-2A certification. They impose different minimum wage requirements and provide lower standards for employer-provided housing. Mendoza (Ps) are U.S. workers experienced in herding. Ps currently have a lawful immigration status and are authorized to work in the United States, thus qualifying as U.S. workers under the INA and H-2A regulations. Ps have been forced out of the industry by the substandard wages and working conditions they attribute to the easy availability of foreign herders. Ps claim that D has, without giving them or their representatives an opportunity to be heard, administered the temporary worker visa program in a way that gives herding operations access to inexpensive foreign labor without protecting U.S. workers. Ps filed this action alleging that D violated the Administrative Procedure Act by issuing the special procedures without notice and comment. D filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and all the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment in the district court. The district court granted the motion to dismiss, holding Ps lacked Article III and prudential standing.