Feinstein, Lofgren introduce farmworker deportation shield bill
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., on Thursday introduced legislation to shield farmworkers from deportation and put them on a path toward earned legal status and eventual citizenship.
Under the Agricultural Worker Program Act, farmworkers who have worked in agriculture for at least 100 days in the past two years may earn “blue card” status that allows them to continue to legally work in the Unites States.
Farmworkers who maintain blue card status for the next three years or five years — depending on hours worked in agriculture — would be eligible to adjust to lawful permanent residence (green card), Feinstein and Lofgren said in a news release.
“Agriculture is a $47 billion industry in California, and U.C. (the University of California) Davis estimates that up to 60 percent of California’s 421,000 farmworkers — approximately 253,000 people are undocumented,” they added.
“Under the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement guidelines, undocumented farmworkers are all priorities for deportation.”
Feinstein and Lofgren included long lists of Democratic senators and House members who endorse the bill.
The Agricultural Worker Protection Act is also supported by the United Farm Workers, the UFW Foundation and Farmworker Justice, they noted.
Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers, which represents fruit, vegetable and tree nut growers in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico, did not formally endorse the bill but welcomed their efforts.
“We recognize and applaud the efforts of Sen. Feinstein and Rep. Lofgren, as well as many other members of the House and Senate, to address the acute labor shortage that plagues production agriculture,” Nassif said in a news release.
“Farm labor is incredibly challenging work that most native-born Americans are not interested in pursuing so we have long relied upon a skilled workforce who are new migrants to our country as well as guest workers.
“Solving the immigration crisis is a priority and necessity for the agricultural industry, and we need legislation that will create a new guest worker visa program and provide a workable path to legalization for our existing workforce and their families. As such, we welcome efforts by members of Congress to highlight the needs of agriculture.”