WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday July 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the essential role of farm workers on the nation’s food security and economy, and the urgent need for the Senate to permanently protect them from deportation by passing a path to citizenship. Witnesses at the hearing included UFW President Emeritus Arturo S. Rodriguez; Secretary of Agriculture, Thomas Vilsack; former assistant Secretary of Labor for Policy, Leon Sequeira; President of National Pork Producers Council, Jen Sorenson; Kooistra Farms LLC’s farmer, Linnea Kooistra, and Owyhee Produce’s CEO and farmer, Shay Myers. The following are key statements by farm workers and advocates who traveled to D.C. for the hearing:
UFW President Emeritus Arturo S. Rodriguez, said:
“To feed the nation, farm workers work with dairy cattle for milk production, in beef cattle ranching and farming, or in the harvesting of fruits and vegetables that we rely on for daily nourishment. Without them, the industry and our food security would collapse. We have a House of Representatives that has prioritized farm worker legalization by passing a bill in the first 100 days of this Congress. We have a Chair of the Judiciary Committee who has committed to passing legislation that allows farm workers to earn legal status. We have a President that is prepared to sign it. Now we need the Senate to use every tool at its disposal to honor the people that we rely on to feed the nation and bring stability to the agricultural industry. If we’re serious about addressing the issue of agricultural labor, this is our moment.”
Michigan farm worker and member of UFW Foundation, Claudia Duran, said:
“For the past 17 years, I have worked in the fields of Michigan. Being a farm worker isn’t easy, I have faced many challenges, including dehydration, drastic weather conditions, limited access to food security, and insufficient PPE during the pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, I continued to work. I didn’t have the luxury to quarantine at home, my four children depend on me. Through it all, I am constantly thinking of my status and returning home safely after work to my children. I urge senators to pass a pathway to citizenship for farm workers this year.”
Georgia farm worker and member of UFW Foundation, Anahi Santiago, said:
“My mother has raised me by working as a farm worker. During my childhood there were many times that she could not afford for someone to look after me, so she took me to work with her. I’ve worked in the fields alongside my mother since I was five. My mother’s status has caged us with fear – I want her and others to live free of that fear. A pathway to citizenship has been long overdue; I believe that this is the year that the senate acts and provides this pathway.”
Georgia farm worker and member of UFW Foundation, Diana Hernandez, said:
“Living in a mixed status family is daunting. While I am a U.S. citizen and am protected from deportation, my parents are not. They are constantly living in fear that one day they may be stopped on their way to work or back from it and be deported. I cannot live in peace unless my parents are safe from deportation. The senate can provide this peace by creating a pathway to citizenship. They can and should deliver this to all farm workers this year.”
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Anahi Santiago, a 20-year-old farm worker from Georgia, was raised by her single mother. Anahi’s mother is undocumented and has worked in agriculture for over 20 years. Worries that someday her mother will not come home due to being detained and deported. She believes that congress can eliminate this fear by creating a pathway to citizenship.
Diana Hernandez, a 19-year-old farm worker from Georgia, lives in a mixed status household. Both her parents are undocumented and have worked as farm workers in Geogia for the past 25 years. Diana lives in fear that her parents will not come home after a day’s work. She hopes that this will be the year the senate passes a pathway to citizenship for her parents and many others.
Claudia Duran, a farm worker from Michigan, is a mother of four children and has worked in the field for the past 17 years. During the pandemic she did not have the luxury to quarantine at home, she continued to work. Due to status she fears being separated from her children on her way to or from work. She urges senators to pass a pathway to citizenship for farm workers.