U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley), today commented on the agricultural labor bill filed by U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
"Chairman Goodlatte's bill ignores a bipartisan compromise agreement negotiated as part of a larger comprehensive immigration reform effort. After making difficult concessions, agriculture stakeholders and a bipartisan group of Senators arrived at a compromise that grants an opportunity for legal immigration status and creates a new system to meet future agricultural labor needs. The House needs to respect this compromise.
"I am deeply troubled by this proposal to create a massive new guest worker program with fewer labor protections than the notoriously abusive Bracero program. Under Chairman Goodlatte's plan, farmworkers face large-scale displacement. Employers will be able to hire guest workers cheaper and easier than their current workforce, resulting in hundreds of thousands of lost jobs, including those of American farmworkers.
"The bill fails to address our broken immigration system in any meaningful way. More than fifty percent of the hard-working, productive farmworkers in this country lack authorized immigration status. This bill fails to offer an opportunity to earn legal immigration status and citizenship. Instead, undocumented farmworkers would only be allowed a temporary work permit that would force them to leave the country after harvesting is finished. It's unworkable and unfair.
"Enacting this legislation would be a grave mistake. The lives of farmworkers and their families would suffer and the agriculture industry would lose critical stability. Agriculture companies have called for a stable, productive, legal workforce. They would not get it with this bill."
Farmworker wages are among the lowest in the nation and poverty among farmworkers is more than double that of all wage and salary employees. A pathway to citizenship will do more to stabilize the farm labor force and assure a productive agricultural sector than any other reform. It will also be fairer to workers, employers and the nation.
"I will continue to fight for immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants, including farmworkers and their families," continued Cárdenas. "This flawed, piecemeal approach is an inadequate response to the national movement for comprehensive immigration reform."