Farmers join the fight for immigration reform

FRESNO, Calif.

Farmers across the Valley are taking their cause out of the fields and into the nation's capital.

Debbie Jacobsen said, "Across California there's been a shortage of workers seen especially in this last harvest season."

Jacobsen is a grape grower in the Valley and found it tough to hire skilled laborers this year.

"With the importance of getting crops to market and there not being a lot of down time you have to get it on the day that it's ready to go," said Jacobsen.

According to the latest survey conducted by the California Farm Bureau nearly two thirds of farmers in the state say they struggled to find enough employees to harvest their crops this year.

On Wednesday business leaders joined together with law enforcement and faith based groups to call for comprehensive immigration reform.

The new campaign is called Bible, Badge and Business. Local non-profits say the current laws make it easier for criminals to prey those who work the fields.

"These hardworking immigrants are being coerced into slave labor," John Swenning said. "Locally we are seeing these folks being forced to work in the ever growing marijuana fields that we have."

Manuel Cunha with the Nisei Farmers League is now asking lawmakers to create a pathway to citizenship for laborers already in the Valley and to start a guest worker program.

Cunha said, "We need to bring in guest workers from other countries to do these jobs because U.S. workers on unemployment and welfare will not do these jobs."

His goal is to have a bill on the president's desk early next year.

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