Valley growers hope guest worker law is coming

March 5, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Demonstrations, demanding action on immigration reform are taking place across the state, and the call for reform is also coming from quieter sessions like a roundtable discussion in Downtown Fresno on Tuesday.

The former Officer in Charge of Fresno's Immigration Office, Don Riding told the group it is past time to get documentation for the immigrants who harvest the Valley's crops. He said, "If we are going to have our crops picked we have to have a legal system."

Acknowledging most of the one million agricultural workers in California's fields are undocumented, farm groups are pushing for a guest worker program that would allow those who are here to get legal and keep working.

One proposal offered by Manuel Cunha of the Nisei Farmers League: "A work authorization program five year blue card, currently here don't have to leave the country. They can apply right it would protect their families, their children."

Cunha says new legislation is being drawn up and will be fast tracked through California Senator Dianne Feinstein.

"We are going to present something to the senate in hand Thursday," said Cunha. "Feinstein wants it in her hand."

Growers not only want a guest worker program to allow workers in to pick crops, but to do other jobs as well, and Cunha says a path to citizenship has to be part of the deal.

Riding says the goal is to make sure any legislation that comes through congress makes sense. He says the current law allowing some workers in, has ridiculous rules.

"There is a temporary provision for people to come in and harvest crops but it requires employers to provide housing that is handicapped accessible," said Riding. "When was the last time you saw someone in a wheel chair out picking crops but that's what the law requires."

There is hope a guest worker law that makes sense can be in place within the next few months, but congress is still deeply divided on the issue.


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