A bipartisan group of farm worker and immigration reform advocates gathered in Washington D.C., on June 8 to push for Congressional passage of the AgJOBS legislation and funding of various programs of interest to farm workers. A morning press conference featured remarks by Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), who are both supporters of the AgJOBS legislation; a migrant farm worker; several worker advocates; and a grower representative, Elvin R. Martínez of Home Nursery, Inc., Edwardsville, Ill.
In his remarks, Martínez described the worsening labor crisis in agriculture. “As you know, the labor crisis I am talking about threatens the very heart of our agriculture — dairy, fruits and vegetables, ranching, poultry and nursery. The crisis is real. Estimates are that 70 percent of the labor force putting food on America’s tables lacks legal status. Tightening borders and increasing enforcement are causing spot shortages. Employers and farm workers alike live in fear on a daily basis. Some want to enforce the problem away. This would be death to agriculture.”
The AgJOBS legislation, S.359 and H.R.884, would reform the decades-old H-2A agricultural guest worker program and allow trained and trusted farm workers who lack proper immigration status to earn that status over time through future work. In combination, these reforms will stabilize the workforce, reward work, enhance national security and food security, and allow labor-intensive agriculture in America the opportunity to survive and thrive.
“AgJOBS is the single best example of where leaders in American agriculture have boldly embraced the future and found common ground with historic adversaries,” said Craig Regelbrugge, senior director of government relations for the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) and co-chair of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR). Luawanna Hallstrom, CFO of Harry Singh & Sons, Oceanside, Calif., added, “If the American people care about safe, abundant and affordable food on their tables, farm employers need access to legal and willing workers, and workers deserve fair and decent treatment.”
Martínez concluded, “AgJOBS represents how the American political system must work if we ever expect to solve important and complex problems facing our country. Historical adversaries have come together and worked hard to find common ground. Everyone faced tough choices. There was a lot of give and take. Together, we must get it passed into law and signed by President Bush!”