Fields of Hope, Fields of Despair: Legisprudential and Historic Perspectives on the AgJobs Bill of 2003

Document Type


Publication Title

Harvard Journal on Legislation


In this Article, Professor Lauren Gilbert examines the unique story of the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits and Security Act of 2003 (AgJobs), first in its historical context and then as a case study for applying various legisprudential theories. Professor Gilbert first provides an historic overview of guest-worker programs in America, a detailed analysis of the history of the AgJobs negotiations, and a study of Congressional developments following the bill's introduction in two different Congresses. She follows this with a review of legisprudence literature and a discussion on how the various theories, including pluralism, public choice theory, institutionalist theory, and critical legal theory, while helpful in understanding why AgJobs failed, are each inadequate in explaining the whole story. She then proposes a framework of analysis entitled 'biennial factionalism' to explain how a bill based on an historic alliance between traditional adversaries that enjoyed broad support among legislators in the Senate was still unable to achieve enactment. Professor Gilbert concludes that biennial factionalism, which depends on the dynamic interplay among political and non-governmental actors and the cyclical nature of the legislative process, should give AgJobs advocates reason to be optimistic for eventual success.

First Page


Last Page


Publication Date

Summer 2005