Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) today introduced legislation to shield farmworkers from deportation and put them on a path to earned 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 may earn lawful “blue card” status. 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 industry in California, and U.C. Davis estimates that up to 70 percent of California farmworkers—approximately 560,000 people—are undocumented. Under the Justice Department’s new immigration enforcement guidelines, they are all priorities for deportation.
“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,” said Feinstein. “Farm labor is performed almost exclusively by undocumented immigrants—a fact that should surprise no one. By protecting farmworkers from deportation, our bill achieves two goals—ensuring that hardworking immigrants don’t live in fear and California’s agriculture industry has the workforce it needs to thrive. Despite their significant contributions to California’s economy and communities, farmworkers are now a priority for deportation under this administration’s shameful policies. We simply must protect the families who help put food on our tables.”
“Across our country, including the many dairy farms of Vermont, foreign workers support agriculture and help put food on our tables,” said Leahy. “It is past time we show our support for them and our understanding of the challenges that farmers and workers face in doing the hard work of dairy farming. Our bill would allow these workers to come out of the shadows and contribute to their farms and communities without fear of arrest, and I am proud to support it.”
“California has the largest agricultural economy in the country, and our famers rely on the labor of undocumented immigrant workers,” said Harris. These workers contribute to our economy and pay taxes, while performing backbreaking labor in a sector where there are often labor shortages. It’s past time and smart for our economy that we provide them a pathway to citizenship, decent working conditions, and the opportunity to come out of the shadows and more fully contribute to our state and national economy.”
“Colorado’s agriculture economy relies on an experienced workforce,” Bennet said. “The failure to fix our broken immigration system has had real economic consequences for our farmers and ranchers. This bill serves as a necessary step until we can enact a long-term solution by passing comprehensive immigration reform.”
“The United Farm Workers strongly supports and cheers Senator Feinstein’s introduction of the Agricultural Worker Program Act of 2017 because the act recognizes that the people who feed our nation should be able to earn the opportunity to gain legal status,” said Arturo Rodriguez, president of United Farmworkers. “Overwhelmingly, farm workers do the hard, brutal work of feeding all of us—it is long past time that the law should allow professional farm workers the chance to earn legal status.”
The following organizations support the Agricultural Worker Program Act:
- Alianza Americas
- America’s Voice
- American GI Forum
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC)
- Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs
- Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network.
- Center for American Progress (CAP)
- Church World Service
- Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI)
- East Coast Migrant Head Start Project
- Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO
- Farm Worker Association of Florida
- Farmworker Justice
- Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU)
- Hispanic Federation
- Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
- La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE)
- Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA)
- LatinoJustice PRLDEF
- League of United Latin American Citizens
- MAFO, Inc.
- Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund (MALDEF)
- National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives
- National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP)
- National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures
- National Council of La Raza (NCLR)
- National Latina/o Psychological Association
- National Hispanic Medical Association
- National Immigration Law Center
- National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH)
- National Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Association
- PICO National Network
- Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN)
- SER-Jobs for Progress National Inc.
- Southern Poverty Law Center
- U.S.- Mexico Foundation
- United Farm Workers
- United Migrant Opportunity Services/UMOS Inc.
- United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI)
- United We Dream
- We Are Casa
- William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI)
- Worker Justice Center of NY