A very conservative, outspoken federal judge yesterday issued a temporary order blocking the Federal Government from implementing the President’s deferred action programs that were announced on November 20, 2014, known as DAPA and expanded DACA. The not unexpected ruling held that of the 26 states challenging the programs, Texas, at least, has “standing” to sue. The district court judge based the order enjoining the deferred action programs on the claim that the Obama Administration had not followed proper procedures in creating the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) Program and the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (expanded DACA) program. The judge reserved for later the decisions of whether the programs violate any law or the Constitution. The U.S. Government will appeal the temporary injunction against President Obama's immigration relief, and the appeal is likely to succeed. The ruling unfortunately creates uncertainty and fear in affected communities, but should be recognized as being only a temporary roadblock as the President’ actions were constitutional and will prevail. Farmworker Justice urges individuals to stay calm and to continue preparing for administrative relief. The decision does not affect the current DACA program announced in 2012, which is still in effect and accepting new applications and applications for renewal.
“Farmworker Justice, along with many legal experts, believes that President Obama’s executive actions are a proper exercise of his prosecutorial discretion, are constitutional, and will ultimately prevail. Farmworker Justice urges the Department of Justice to request the Court of Appeals to issue an emergency stay, which could expedite the process of review,” said Bruce Goldstein, president of Farmworker Justice. “Several hundred thousand farmworkers who labor on our farms and ranches could be eligible for these deferred action programs. The programs are well within the President’s authority. By eliminating the constant fear of deportation, farmworkers and other aspiring Americans will be able to contribute more fully to their communities and will be empowered in their workplaces.”
Farmworker Justice will continue to work with groups throughout the country to support and plan implementation of the DAPA/DACA programs and to win legislation that creates a path to citizenship for undocumented farmworker families.
Washington, DC – Farmworker Justice opposes amendments to the appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security (H.R. 240) that seek to prevent the Administration from implementing President Obama’s immigration executive actions, which are urgently needed to protect immigrant families, youth, and others.
“The DACA and DAPA programs are sensible efforts to address the broken immigration system that is harming immigrants, employers, and the nation. They are a modest step in the right direction and should not be obstructed,” said Bruce Goldstein, President of Farmworker Justice. Among agricultural workers, the people who labor in dangerous, low-paid jobs on our farms and ranches, a majority are undocumented. Many of these undocumented farmworkers live in fear of detection, job loss and deportation, and are vulnerable to abuse.
The President’s deferred action programs will allow eligible residents who lack authorized immigration status to come forward, submit to background checks and properly document themselves with the federal government and in their workplaces. Those undocumented immigrants who qualify will obtain a temporary relief from deportation and temporary work authorization. “With protection against the constant fear of deportation, farmworkers and other aspiring Americans will be able to contribute more fully to their communities and will be empowered in their workplaces,” said Goldstein.
The President’s actions are a proper exercise of his authority to enforce immigration laws. “Congressional efforts to prevent the Administration from taking these modest steps should be rejected not only because the President possesses the authority, but also because the Administration’s efforts are sensible and humanitarian as well as economically beneficial to our nation and food system,” said Goldstein.
We commend President Obama’s action to address our broken immigration system. The President took action because Congress has refused to address the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform. In 2013, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill that included a carefully negotiated compromise regarding agricultural workers and employers. Unfortunately, the House failed to act. These proposed amendments move in the fundamentally wrong direction.
Learn how Farmworker Justice helps farmworkers improve their living and working conditions. Highlights include:
- Immigration Reform Update: Deferred Deportation and Farmworkers
- Victory for Farmworkers: Remedying Systematic Labor Abuses Confronted by Farmworkers
- The Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment 2.0: Connecting Farmworkers to Health Insurance
- Keeping Up the Pressure to Protect Farmworkers from Pesticides
A group of farmworkers is attempting to enforce their rights to paid rest breaks and Farmworker Justice's litigation team has been supporting their efforts. The workers, who picked berries at Sakuma Brothers Farms in Washington, sued to enforce several state and federal employment laws. Those workers have now taken their battle to the Washington Supreme Court, where they seek a ruling that would prevent Washington growers from escaping their legal duty to pay workers for their rest breaks.
Sakuma’s berry pickers (like many farmworkers across the country) are currently paid on a piece-rate basis, meaning that they earn money based on how many berries they pick – typically, a piece-rate worker is paid a certain amount of money for each bucket they fill. Piece rate wages are low, forcing workers to be as quick and efficient as possible to maximize their income.
While Sakuma Brothers does allow its workers to take rest breaks, it admits in court filings that it did not pay its berry pickers separately for their rest breaks. Instead, their pay was calculated by simply multiplying the amount of berries they picked by the piece rate. As a result, farmworkers could either choose to make extra money by working through their rest breaks or to take their rest breaks and receive no pay for the time they spent resting.
Sakuma argues that the piece rate they pay their workers includes pay for rest breaks. Since no Washington court has yet decided the issue, the state’s Supreme Court took the issue on. There, the workers argued that the state’s farmworker rest break law – which gives farmworkers the right to rest breaks “on the employer’s time” – entitles them to separate pay for their rest breaks.
With the help of the National Employment Law Project, Sea Mar Community Health Centers, and Migrant Clinicians’ Network, Farmworker Justice filed an amicus curiae brief with the Court, arguing that unpaid rest breaks are harmful to workers’ health.
Farmwork is among the most dangerous jobs in the country. The risk for injury continues to get worse throughout the day – the longer a worker has been picking berries, the more likely he or she is to get injured. Scientific studies of rest breaks show that they have a profound impact on injury rates. One short rest break is enough to reduce a worker’s risk of injury to its baseline level.
As Sakuma admits, piece rate workers will often work through their rest breaks if they are unpaid. Workers feel as though they cannot afford to take an off-the-clock break, so they continue working even though it puts them at risk of injury.
The Capital Ag Press cited the brief in an article on the lawsuit, noting that the brief makes the argument that workers will forego their rest breaks. What that article fails to mention is the crux of the brief – that in order to ensure that the worker protections in Washington’s rest break laws are meaningful, the court must require growers to pay their piece rate employees separately for their rest breaks. Otherwise, the promise of a paid rest break will mean nothing for Washington’s many piece rate workers.
On November 20th, 2014 President Obama announced his plans for executive action on immigration. We applaud the President’s action, which includes a deferred action program that provides relief from deportation and work authorization for millions of undocumented individuals, including hundreds of thousands of farmworkers and their family members.
Immigration is a critically important issue for farmworkers. Learn about current legislation proposals impacting farmworkers.
Learn about the history of guestworker programs, H-2A program for temporary agricultural work, and the H-2B visa program.