California Senators Feinstein and Harris Propose Ag Amnesty

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

May 16, 2017

California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, along with Vermont’s Patrick Leahy, Colorado’s Michael Bennet and Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono, recently introduced the Agricultural Worker Program Act that would protect illegal alien farmworkers from deportation and, in a two-step process, eventually grant them citizenship.

Feinstein, Leahy, three others concoct new ag amnesty.

First, ag workers who have been actively employed for at least 100 days in each of the past two years would earn a lawful “blue card” status which, if maintained for a minimum of three years depending on the total hours worked, would be upgraded to legal permanent residency. The amnesty would be more expansive than the senators indicated in their press release.

According to immigration lawyers’ review of the proposed legislation, first, spouses and children also would be blue card-eligible. Second, permanent residency carries a requirement that outstanding federal taxes be paid; the blue card excludes that provision. Third, blue card filing fees are $100, and not the $400 charged on permanent residency applications. Fourth, blue card applicants with criminal convictions and immigration violations could have those waived.

Sen. Feinstein, as she always does, brought out the tedious and false crops-rotting-in-the-field argument (where are the pictures?) and claimed, as she repeatedly does, that during her statewide conversations with (anonymous) farmers, they were in unanimous agreement that “there aren’t enough workers.”

Even though Sen. Feinstein has represented California since 1992 and is poised for re-election in 2018, few have less credibility on agriculture. Here’s what Sen. Feinstein said in 2008 when she and her congressional colleague Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) unsuccessfully pushed for an ag amnesty to be attached to the Iraq spending bill: “If you can't get people to prune, to plant, to pick, to pack, you can’t run a farm.” A decade later, California’s harvests continue bountiful. Although Feinstein appears unaware, someone has been pruning, planting, picking and packing.

Instead of promoting amnesty, the senators should be working on a permanent solution to the alleged worker shortage – mechanization.
 

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