East County News Service
May 10, 2017 (San Diego’s East County) - Senator Dianne Feinstein has coauthored legislation introduced last week to shield farmworkers from deportation and put them on a path to earn legal status and eventual citizenship.
Under the Agricultural Worker Program Act, farmworkers who have worked in agriculture for at least 100 days in each of the past two years would be able to earn lawful “blue card” status, if the bill is approved.
Farmworkers who maintain blue card status for the next three or five years, depending on the total hours worked in agriculture, would be eligible to adjust to a green card or legal permanent residency.
Agriculture is a 54-billion-dollar industry in California, and U.C. Davis estimates that up to 70 percent of California farmworkers—that’s over half a million people—are undocumented.
Under the Trump Justice Department’s new immigration enforcement guidelines, they are all priorities for deportation.
Senator Feinstein states, “Everywhere I travel in California, I hear from farmers, growers and producers from all industries—wine, citrus, fruit and tree nuts, dairy—that there aren’t enough workers. Farm labor is performed almost exclusively by undocumented immigrants.”
By protecting farmworkers from deportation, the bill achieves two goals—ensuring that hardworking immigrants don’t live in fear and that California’s agriculture industry has the workforce it needs to thrive.
Senator Feinstein concludes, “We simply must protect the families who help put food on our tables.”
The bill, which has not yet been assigned a bill number, is supported by a coalition of labor and immigrant rights groups. But it is unclear whether it will have any chance of being heard amid the anti-immigrant stances of leaders in the Senate, which has a slim Republican majority, let alone pass the House, which is firmly controlled by conservatives who have supported President Trump’s calls for mass deportations.
If deportation of farmworkers is not stopped, Americans across the nation can expect to pay more for fruits and vegetables that could be left to rot in the fields if not enough workers can be found to pick them.