The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that almost half of America’s 1.1 million farmworkers are undocumented. A group of senators recently presented legislation to safeguard these workers from deportation and assist with legal status and citizenship.
Last week, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) introduced the Agricultural Worker Program Act. Under the bill, farmworkers who have worked in agriculture for at least 100 days in each of the past two years could earn lawful “blue card” status. Farmworkers maintaining their blue card status for up to five years, could potentially be eligible to adjust to a green card or permanent residency.
Per a press release, Senator Feinstein stated, “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—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.”
Senator Bennet echoed his colleague with, “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 Colorado Springs Gazette noted that the bill “has virtually no chance of becoming law, however, with President Trump in the White House and his fellow Republicans in charge of the House and Senate.”
Despite potential challenges, the legislation has its supporters. Arturo Rodriguez, president of United Farmworkers, stated, “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.” Support for the measure also comes from Southern Poverty Law Center and the U.S.- Mexico Foundation, among others.
The text of the bill is available here.