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Opinion

Readers React: Immigrant farm laborers deserve more than just ‘guest worker’ protections

Losses will be huge if if lawmakers donaat pass some form of immigration plan that allows for “guest” workers
Laborers hand-weed an onion field in Elba, N.Y., in 2012.
(Michael Okoniewski / McClatchy-Tribune)

To the editor: There is an urgent need for immigration reform to address the situation in agricultural communities, but I disagree with some of the points made by American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.

We should respect the valuable role of farmworkers and ensure that they enjoy full democratic and economic freedoms. A majority of farmworkers are undocumented immigrants. The proposed Agricultural Worker Program Act, introduced recently, would allow undocumented farmworkers and their immediate family members to earn legal immigration status.

The bill includes a future work requirement that addresses employer concerns about workforce stability. The opportunity for immigration status would reduce the fear of arrest and deportation that pervades farmworker communities and families.

If future farmworkers are needed, they should also be given the opportunity to become immigrants and citizens, not forced into a temporary work permit.

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The long-standing H-2A agricultural guest worker program has modest wage and other labor protections. But agribusiness groups’ demands to lower H-2A wage rates and reduce government oversight should be rejected. Agriculture is not entitled to a workforce deprived of economic bargaining power and political representation.

This is a nation of immigrants, not a nation of guest workers.

Bruce Goldstein, Washington

The writer is president of the group Farmworker Justice.

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To the editor: What any type of “pathway to legalization for agricultural workers who are already here” would not be is a “fix” for the purported farm labor shortage, but rather yet another amnesty for those who have broken our immigration laws.

You can be sure that if any such program is actually enacted, there will be millions of “agricultural workers” clamoring to be given citizenship. They would, of course, be bearing the required bogus paperwork that proves that they were indeed working in the fields in whatever window of time the law would prescribe.

So the H-2A program is not perfect? Well, what visa program is? I say, “Mend it, don’t end it.”

Randle C. Sink, Huntington Beach

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