By Jason Huffman
May 04, 2017
DEMS’ ‘BLUE CARD’ BILL WOULD PROTECT UNDOCUMENTED AG WORKERS: Five Senate Democrats, including Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy, came out with a bill Wednesday that would protect undocumented farmworkers from deportation by the Trump administration. Under the Agricultural Worker Program Act — which is co-sponsored by Michael Bennet, Mazie Hirono and Kamala Harris — undocumented farmworkers would be eligible for a “blue card” if they have worked in agriculture for at least 100 days in each of the past two years. Those who maintain a blue card for three or five years (depending on hours worked) would then be “eligible to adjust to a green card or legal permanent residency,” per a statement from the five Dems.
“Despite their significant contributions to California’s economy, farmworkers are now a priority for deportation,” Feinstein said in the statement, criticizing the administration’s crackdown. “We simply must protect the families who help put food on our tables.”
The bill is supported by dozens of pro-immigration groups, but its lack of bipartisan co-sponsorship means it faces an uphill battle to become law. But farm groups argued a legislative fix is warranted, and cited the industry’s labor shortage and its vulnerability to hardline enforcement because of its heavy reliance on undocumented workers. “After years of congressional inaction and continued employee shortages on California farms, this bill begins the process of advancing the immigration reform debate in the 115th Congress,” said California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger.
‘Overlooked’ part of the debate: Tom Nassif, CEO of Western Growers, said the bill “elevates an issue often overlooked in the immigration reform debate: retention of the existing agricultural workforce.” He added that he hopes members of Congress working on legislation to address ag immigration “accelerate the process because time is definitely of the essence and our labor situation has reached a critical stage.”
What about state-sponsored visas? Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) introduced a bill Wednesday that would give individual states access to temporary visas for guest workers. The proposal does not place occupational restrictions on those visas, so as it stands now it could apply to farmworkers.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com