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Monday, August 16, 2010

California Wants to 'Decriminalize' Immigrant Farm Workers

Posted By on Mon, Aug 16, 2010 at 2:10 PM

click to enlarge farmers1.jpg
The California Department of of Food and Agriculture calls for a sweeping effort to protect immigrant farm workers -- including those who traveled to the U.S. illegally -- in a new plan outlining the state's agricultural future.

The plan, called AgVision 2030, asserts that immigrant labor is vital to the state's farm economy and advocates a raft of immigrant-friendly policies -- including "decriminalization" of farm workers without proper immigration documents, increased access to health care and education for immigrants, and fewer immigration raids on farms.

The plan affirms a commonly held view among immigrant-rights advocates -- that migrant laborers, many of them from Mexico, do jobs that U.S. citizens are unwilling to do.

"Coordinated efforts at recruiting domestic labor have largely failed, despite high unemployment in many agricultural communities," the plan states. "Thus, an estimated 75 percent of California's agricultural workforce is foreign-born, primarily Mexican, and about half of the workers are believed to be unauthorized under current immigration laws." The plan goes on to state that the H-2A temporary visa program for farm workers is "cumbersome and ineffective."

The plan urges state officials to support federal immigration reform and take measures to protect immigrants from current federal policies. Among the recommendations: state and local authorities not conduct immigration-related inspections of farm sites; enable immigrant farm workers to obtain driver's licenses or identification cards; and establish policies that prevent families from being broken up by deportations.

"Because few domestic workers want these

jobs and undocumented workers are the backbone of our agricultural

laborforce, the CDFA's recommendations are urgently needed to ensure

that these hardworking individuals and families are given basic human

rights, including the right to work without fear of criminalization and

the right to keep their families together," Angela Chan, a staff lawyer at the Asian Law Caucus, said in an email message. "We cannot continue to

ignore this basic truth that immigrant workers are vital to our economy."

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