Farm, Green, Feild

Proposed Bill Would Create Safeguards Against Agricultural Worker Deportation

In early May, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced the Agricultural Worker Program Act (AWPA), a piece of legislation that will provide undocumented workers with heightened protection from deportation and aid them in obtaining legal status and citizenship. Specifically, the AWPA allows farmworkers who have worked in agriculture for at least one hundred (100) days of the past two years to earn lawful “blue card” status. Farmworkers who maintain this “blue card” status for five years may then become eligible to adjust to permanent residency or to a “green card” status. In a press release, Feinstein stated, “By protecting farmworkers from deportation, our bill achieves two goals – ensuring that hardworking immigrants don’t live in fear and California’s agriculture industry has the workforce it needs to thrive.” Bennet remarked that, “The failure to fix our broken immigration system has had real economic consequences for our farmers and ranchers. This bill serves as a necessary step until we can enact a long-term solution by passing comprehensive immigration reform.”

Advocates for the bill include Arturo Rodriguez, United Farm Workers (UFW) President, stating that “the United Farm Workers strongly supports and cheers Senator Feinstein’s introduction of the Agricultural Worker Program Act of 2017 because the act recognizes that the people who feed our nation should be able to earn the opportunity to gain legal status.” Nonetheless, others remain less optimistic for the Act, and project that the Act is unlikely to be passed under the Trump administration. The Colorado Springs Gazette remarked that the bill “has virtually no chance of becoming law, however, with President Trump in the White House and his fellow Republicans in charge of the House and Senate.” The complete text of the bill is available on Feinstein’s website.

This post was written by Aaron M. Phelps of Varnum Law.

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