Ag leaders renew push for immigration reform

Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform say a small window of opportunity now exists to get a bill passed this year.
May 5, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
There is a new push for immigration reform. Local Ag leaders are warning politicians that failure to act could mean the failure of Valley farmers.

There is a new push for immigration reform. Local Ag leaders are warning politicians that failure to act could mean the failure of Valley farmers.

Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform say a small window of opportunity now exists to get a bill passed this year. On Monday, a Valley Ag leader joined the U.S. Ag Secretary and the president of the UFW in a call to action.

It's estimated 73 percent of the nation's Ag workforce is undocumented. But they are the backbone of a California industry which sells $34 billion worth of Ag products a year.

Manuel Cunha of the Nisei Farmers League was part of a renewed national push for immigration reform to bring 11 million workers out of the shadows.

"It's crucial to have a stable, qualified workforce here so our farmers know what to do. When we get some water we can go back doing the thing we do the best and that is grow the safest food in the world," said Cunha.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says immigration reform is good for California and the rest of the country because it would provide a reliable workforce and increase production.

"Some farms are no longer able to harvest what they are planting," said Vilsack. "We've heard of situations where producers are reducing the amount of acreage, not just because of the drought but because of the lack of a stable workforce."

The Senate passed an immigration reform bill last year. It establishes a path to citizenship for undocumented workers and tightens border security.

UFW President Arturo Rodriguez says it's time for Congress to bring the issue to a vote.

"Our broken immigration system is breaking up families and breaking down farm workers," he said.

Cunha says the group is sending a message to Republican members of Congress.

"Our whole opportunity is going to be between May and June," he said.

Cunha says there's been some encouraging movement on immigration reform. He will head to Washington, D.C., in two weeks to urge more discussion among members of Congress.


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