Republicans Must Compromise
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
and Laurie Greene, Associate Editor
While it’s true that the
majority of workers on California farms do not have legal status. And while
there is a limited number of legal ag worker programs, the primary one being
H2-A which is a stymied, and stifled program that only provides about four
percent of the legal workforce, there is a critical need to get an Immigration
Billed signed by the President.
“We only have a few more
weeks to get something done, but I believe it will happen,” said Craig Regelbrugge,
Co-chair of Agricultural Coalition for Immigration Reform, speaking at the
recent 32nd Annual Agribusiness Management Conference in Fresno.
‘There is more enforcement
and much of that is in the form of I-9 audits, where government officials come
in and audits a farmer’s paperwork, which leads to the firing of a large number
of very experience workers,” said Regelbrugge. “These workers are generally not
deported, but instead move on to rebuild their lives doing something else.”
“All this is leading to uncertainty
and labor shortages with many crops such as pears, strawberries not getting
completely harvested this year,” Regelbrugge. “We are also seeing lost opportunities and
offshoring of production to foreign countries that have the labor and resources
to produce crops and then export it to us.
This all leads to economic and job loss and the ripple effect across the
ag sector of the economy,” he noted.
“There is still time in the
remaining few weeks for the house to work on a compromise,” he said. “Republicans
should move bills that support their fundamental principals like market
oriented, limited Government, individual initiative such as what immigration
reform is all about,” noted Regelbrugge.
Central Valley Congressmen David
Valadon and Jeff Denham deserve credit in their support of immigration reform.
We need Devin Nunes to support the bill along with the third ranking Kevin McCarthy
with us as well.
A 21st Century America
requires a 21st Century Immigration system. Doing nothing is not an
option. The bottom line is that the house must act this fall.
Also speaking at the
conference was Monte Lake, a distinguished lawyer from the valley, specializing
in agricultural employment, immigration and regulatory law.
“Our challenge over the years has been to
unify agriculture,” said Lake. “We have made progress by uniting all the
players who have been impacted to develop a program that works.”
“We need reform,” Lake
continued. “We have a shortage of labor, not just a projected shortage, and it
is a national problem.
Lake believes national
immigration reform affects the Central Valley more than elsewhere. “Locally,
many workers are undocumented and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
(ICE) is in the Valley. Packers are now targeted and directed to fire 80% of
their workforce. This often devastatingly disrupts harvest time. Before long,
electronic verification of employment documents will be mandated.”
“The H2A program is the only
guest worker program for agriculture and it
does not work; only 4% of the workforce in California come through it,”
said Lake. “H2A must have been designed by Soviet bureaucracy—it is cumbersome,
unworkable and untimely for perishable commodities. The average bureaucratic
delay is 22 days, and wage rates are not market-based.”
“The way to look at your future is you must
have a Washington-perspective of what is doable,” Lake suggested. “A program
that works must have basic standards demanded by the American public, including
an acceptable basic wage, housing, and reasonable hours—a balance of worker and
“But, here’s the challenge:
it is not the world we want, it is the world we can achieve politically.”
The Senate has passed legislation
for comprehensive agriculture immigration reform—the
blue card program for the undocumented. Any undocumented who has worked
in agriculture for 2 years, with a few caveats, can qualify for legal status.
It is controversial because it touches on amnesty.
The intent is keep these
individuals because we want to transition to an essential guest worker program,
so we provide an incentive for undocumented farm workers to remain in
agriculture. Visa programs and organized labor are against this.
The Senate supports factors
such as administrative-free, work for anybody at will, administered by
Department of Agriculture and not Department of Labor, with no cap on workers,
careful consideration of wages for profitability, predictability and inflation.
Likewise, the House has
drafted legislation that improves H2A but lacks structural changes.
Undocumented workers can work for a 2-year period, but they must go home
afterwards. A mass departure of farmworkers for an unspecified time concerns
“Plus, mechanization has its
limitations, and imports will increase,” Lake predicted.
Lake described a big
advertisement by the agricultural industry this week in POLITICO, a widely read publication
in Washington DC that shows an aircraft carrier sailing from American shores.
On the deck is every type of agriculture, the message being that we are
exporting our agricultural products overseas and must be able to compete
“We’ve go to solve this
problem. If we fail, we will continue to have ICE and the H2A program,” warned
Lake summed up, “You have a
good delegation in the Valley from both parties that recognizes the economic
reality necessitating a viable immigration system. We’re talking about
components: land, water, and labor.”
Lake emphasized, “You have to
support and encourage the delegation; keep them active. Urge all of your
colleagues in the industry to do the same. Make a lot of noise in Washington,
DC because it impacts you. Keep up the pressure. Keep up the good work.”
Labels: AGRIBUSINESS MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE 2013, Craig Regelbrugge, Monte Lake, Republicans Must Compromise On Immigration Bill, Time Running Out for Immigration Bill