California's senators just proposed a path to legal status and citizenship for farmworkers

California’s senators just proposed a path to legal status and citizenship for farmworkers

(Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

(Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Originally published by LA Times

Sarah D. Wire

California's two Democratic senators filed legislation Wednesday that would shield farmworkers who are in the country illegally from deportation and create a path to citizenship.

“Everywhere I travel in California, I hear from farmers, growers and producers from all industries — wine, citrus, fruit and tree nuts, dairy — that there aren’t enough workers,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in a statement. “Farm labor is performed almost exclusively by undocumented immigrants — a fact that should surprise no one."

Nine in 10 agriculture workers in California are foreign-born, and more than half are undocumented, according to federal numbers. Despite rising wages, California farmers have said they cannot hire enough native-born workers.

The bill is also backed by senators from Colorado, Vermont and Hawaii, but there's been no broad talk in Congress of reforming immigration laws this year. With Democrats in the minority and unable to direct when legislation may be considered, the proposed Agricultural Worker Program Act faces an uphill battle.

It would allow undocumented farmworkers who have worked in agriculture for at least 100 days in each of the previous two years to earn a “blue card," which would allow them to work legally.

They would eventually be eligible for a green card or legal permanent residency, which opens the door to earning citizenship.

“It’s past time and smart for our economy that we provide them a pathway to citizenship, decent working conditions, and the opportunity to come out of the shadows and more fully contribute to our state and national economy,” Sen. Kamala Harris said in a statement.

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