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Sen. Feinstein, Rep. Gutiérrez, Labor Movement Advocates Review Efforts to Protect Immigrant Farmworkers and Discuss Their Contributions

Sen. Feinstein, Rep. Gutiérrez, Labor Movement Advocates Review Efforts to Protect Immigrant Farmworkers and Discuss Their Contributions

A recording of today’s call is available here.

Washington, DC —Today, Senator Feinstein (D-CA), Rep. Gutiérrez (D-IL), and United Farm Worker President Arturo S. Rodriguez joined farm workers and labor advocates to overview the widespread implications of Trump’s immigration policies and the Agricultural Worker Program Act, legislation recently introduced by Senators Feinstein, Leahy (D-VT), Bennet (D-CO), Hirono (D-HI), and Harris (D-CA) and soon to be introduced in the House by Rep. Gutiérrez to protect farm workers from deportation and put them on a pathway to legalization and citizenship. More information about the new legislation is available here from Farmworker Justice.

Trump’s Mass Deportation strategy has produced fear tidal waves throughout not only the immigrant communities, but all sectors of the labor force — as over half of all United States farm workers are undocumented, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and over 8 million undocumented immigrants contribute to America’s workforce, according to Pew Research Center. A recording of today’s call is available here.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), said, “Protecting our agricultural workforce from deportation is both an economic and moral imperative, and that’s why I’ve reintroduced the Agriculture Worker Program Act with Senators Pat Leahy, Michael Bennet, Mazie Hirono, and Kamala Harris. Our bill would provide our nation’s farmworkers with legal status—known as a blue card—and an eventual path to citizenship. I’ve worked on this issue for decades, but today there’s a renewed sense of urgency to take action. The Trump administration’s new enforcement priorities make all undocumented immigrants—including farmworkers—priorities for deportation. Any one of the hard-working people who spend hours bent over in the hot sun to put food on our tables could be picked up at any time, for any reason, and deported. We’re going to do all we can to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Representative Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL), said, “I have traveled many, many times to Delano, the Central Coast, and the Big Valley and all over California and met with farm workers.  They are among the hardest working and most vulnerable people I have ever met.  That is why we are working to build support for the bill in the House and plan to introduce the Agricultural Worker Program Act in our chamber in the next few weeks. Farm workers provide backbreaking labor that keeps our economy going and keeps our food production on American soil. But we do not fully recognize those contributions by allowing workers to work legally, protected by our labor laws, and fully integrating into American society. This legislation moves us in the direction of recognizing their humanity, their aspirations, their families and their future in this country. This legislation says that we value your contributions and see them as legitimate and our laws ought to reflect that.”

Sagrario Arellano, Dairy Worker from Centralia, WA, said, “As a dairy worker, it’s hard work and requires a lot of discipline. We have to be at 100% because we work with animals — any error that occurs could cause us to die. This bill would be something very good, it really opens the door for many things, and it’s something we’ve been fighting for.”

Lourdes Cardenas, Grape Worker from Central Valley California, said, “This bill would make it so that we are not treated like slaves, but rather as human beings just like any other worker.”

Bruce Goldstein, President, Farmworker Justice, said, “The people who labor on our farms and ranches to feed us deserve our respect for their honorable work.  The government’s increased immigration enforcement worsens the harm that many farmworker families suffer under our broken immigration system and threatens our agricultural businesses.  Enactment of the Agriculture Worker Program Act would be an important step toward fixing our broken immigration system, supporting our food system and treating farmworkers with respect.”

Shah Kazemi, President and Owner, Monterey Mushrooms (the nation’s largest mushroom farm with operations in CA, FL, TN, TX, IL, and PA), said, “I greatly appreciate the leadership of Senator Feinstein and Representative Gutierrez. This bill would change the lives of thousands — from the farm workers, the employees, the families, and the consumers. Due to our ineffective immigration system and the Trump administration’s Mass Deportation Force, we are short hundreds of workers on the farm. And, due to rumors of ICE raids every day, and, after a raid at a mushroom farm in Pennsylvania, hundreds of workers didn’t show up to work. This problem is not unique to our industry — it’s seen across the agricultural community. It’s not a sustainable lifestyle for anyone. We need to protect those that contribute so much to our society.”

Arturo S. Rodriguez, President, United Farm Workers of America, said, “The United Farm Workers cheers the Agricultural Workers Program Act introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein because it would let farm workers presently in this country earn the legal right to stay by continuing to work in agriculture. The Agricultural Workers Program Act recognizes that the people who feed our nation should be given the chance to be here legally. Overwhelmingly, farm workers do the tough, brutal work of feeding all of us. Their sacrifice, skill and hard work produce the greatest bounty of food the world has ever known—a bounty over which we give thanks each day at our dinner tables. So it is long past time that the law should allow these professional farm workers to freely enjoy the fruits of the production they create for us all.”