Information provided by the Office of Congressman Jimmy Panetta.
Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced bicameral legislation on Jan. 17 to provide farmworkers a path toward earned legal status and eventual citizenship.
Under the Agricultural Worker Program Act (H.R. 641), 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, according to a recent release from Panetta's office. 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).
"Immigrant farmworkers are not only the backbone of our nation’s agriculture industry, they and their families are the heart and soul of many rural communities, like mine on the central coast of California," Panetta said. "They plant and harvest the food that goes on our dinner tables and enrich the social, cultural, and historical fabric of our society. This bill provides these men and women with a way to earn their citizenship by contributing to our agriculture and our communities. It is well past time to address our nation’s severe labor shortage and its impact on our agriculture industry. As the representative of the Salad Bowl of the World, I am proud to introduce this bill, which is a critical step forward for both our farmers and farmworkers and for our efforts to finally reform our broken immigration system."
The release states that agriculture is a $47 billion industry in California, and U.C. Davis estimates that up to 60 percent of California’s 421,000 farmworkers—approximately 253,000 people—are undocumented. Under the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement guidelines, undocumented farmworkers are all priorities for deportation.
"Farmers throughout California struggle mightily to find workers, and we all know that backbreaking farm labor is performed largely by undocumented immigrants," said Senator Feinstein. "By protecting farmworkers from deportation, our bill would ensure that hardworking immigrants don’t live in fear and that California’s agriculture industry has the workforce it needs to succeed. Despite their significant contributions to California’s economy and communities, farmworkers are a priority for deportation under the Trump administration’s policies. We must protect the families who help put food on our tables."
Said Representative Lofgren: "Farmworker communities across the country are living and working in fear and uncertainty due to President Trump’s harsh anti-immigrant enforcement and deportation agenda. Addressing this crisis and allowing existing farmworkers and their families to earn legal immigration status and permanent residence is critically important to our nation’s food and agriculture system. With this legislation, farmworkers will be able to improve their wages and working conditions, resulting in a more stable farm labor force and greater food safety and security to the benefit of American employers, workers, and consumers."
In addition to Senator Feinstein, the Senate bill is cosponsored by Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
"California’s agriculture economy relies on immigrant laborers, many of whom are undocumented and work for hours every day in harsh conditions to help put food on the tables of the American people," said Senator Kamala Harris. "Protecting undocumented farm workers from deportation and giving them a pathway to citizenship will do much to improve their working conditions and bring people out of the shadows. It’s the smart thing to do and the right thing to do."
In addition to Reps. Panetta and Lofgren, the House bill is cosponsored by Representatives Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), T.J. Cox (D-Calif.), Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Cohen (D-Tenn.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Anna E. Eshoo (D-Calif.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), Jimmy Gomez (D- Calif.), Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Josh Harder (D-Calif.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Katie Hill (D-Calif.), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Al Lawson (D-Fla.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Doris O. Matsui (D-Calif.), A. Donald McEachin (D-Vi.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Janet Napolitano (D-Calif.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), David Price (D-N.C.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Norma Torres (D-Calif.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), and John Yarmuth (D- Ky.).
The Agricultural Worker Protection Act is also supported by the United Farm Workers, the UFW Foundation and Farmworker Justice, the release states.
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