GOP immigration plan hurts farmers

As the U.S. House of Representatives continues discussion on proposed immigration legislation, the California Farm Bureau Federation cannot support a part of the bill that addresses agricultural employees.

Now before Congress, H.R. 4760, the Securing America’s Future Act, would fund a border wall and address internal immigration enforcement and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It also includes an Agricultural Guestworker Act, which would create a new agricultural visa program.

The Guestworker Act, in its current form, contains a number of features that would harm the current immigrant employees on whom California farms and ranches depend. In addition, it would mandate use of the E-Verify electronic workplace-eligibility system, which could affect a large proportion of current agricultural employees.

As now written, the Agricultural Guestworker Act just wouldn’t work for California farms and ranches. There’s a longstanding need to create a workable temporary-visa program for agriculture that provides greater stability and opportunities for agricultural employees and their families. The act would cause too much disruption for our employees and our communities.

The Farm Bureau and other organizations have offered a number of recommendations for creating a more practical and flexible program to allow people from other countries to enter the U.S. to work on farms and ranches.

We know the American Farm Bureau and other national agricultural organizations have decided to support the AG Act, and they have every right to do so. But as the largest agricultural organization in the largest agricultural state, we must advocate for a solution that works for our members and their employees.”

We certainly respect the need to maintain and enhance border security, and we think that can be done while providing farmers, ranchers and their employees with a better immigration system.

Our California congressional representatives need to work for a system that allows agricultural employees to earn legal status without being required to leave their homes and families, and which features visas that provide sufficient flexibility to allow the new program to function like the current labor market. We also recommend creation of a program to accommodate future agricultural employees from other countries.

For California farmers and ranchers, the combination of the AG Act and E-Verify would actually worsen chronic agricultural employee shortages. We need to press for a better solution.

California Farm Bureau President

Jamie Johansson

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