Agricultural Worker Program Act of 2019 Proposes New Paths to Legal Employment and Citizenship
WASHINGTON, DC - Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Zoe Lofgren of California have introduced a new farmworker bill called the Agricultural Worker Program Act of 2019, in which California agricultural workers with 100 days of experience over the last two years can apply for the ability to work legally in the U.S. and even one day apply for lawful permanent residence. Under the bill, workers who have eligible agricultural experience can earn “blue card” status, and if they maintain that status for an additional three or five years—depending on hours worked in agriculture—they would be eligible for a green card granting permanent residence.
“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.”
In response, several interests in the agricultural industry issued statements on the bill, including the produce industry’s own Tom Nassif, Western Growers' President and CEO.
“We recognize and applaud the efforts of Senator Feinstein and Representative Lofgren, as well as many other members of the House and Senate, to address the acute labor shortage that plagues production agriculture,” Nassif stated. “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.”
Nassif went on to explain that solving the immigration crisis remains a priority and necessity for the agricultural industry. He also called upon legislators to create a new guest worker visa program and provide a workable path to legalization for our existing workforce and their families.
If you are interested in reading Senator Feinstein and Representative Lofgren’s proposed bill in its entirety, it can be read via Feinstein’s statement here.
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