National Farmworker Awareness Week Blog: On Immigration

National Farmworker Awareness Week Blog: On Immigration

We are pleased to share this blog, written by staff attorney Iris Figueroa, during National Farmworker Awareness Week (NFAW). NFAW is an annual week-long celebration of farmworkers and the contribution they make to society, and a reminder of progress yet to be made regarding farmworkers' health, safety, and rights. You can find out more about NFAW here

SAF Quote:  “It is my dream to, regardless of my accomplishments, never lose sight of my heritage and the spirit of the farmworker who deserves the right to be heard and never ignored.”

– Lupe Huitron, SAF alum, 2005

Immigration is a critically important issue for farmworkers. Approximately half of the farmworkers in this country, and possibly more, are undocumented. Many farmworkers have built families in the U.S., including with spouses, children and grandchildren who are U.S. citizens. The lack of immigration status affects many aspects of farmworkers’ lives, including their ability to speak up against abusive employers, access healthcare, and fully participate in their communities. Farmworkers deserve to be heard and valued by the country that they are feeding.

Instead, the criminalization of undocumented immigrants, increased deportations and other immigration enforcement actions have exacerbated an already untenable situation for farmworkers and the agricultural labor system. Our broken immigration system is harming farmworker families, agricultural businesses, rural communities and the economy. We should respect the valuable role of farmworkers in our agriculture and food system and ensure that they enjoy the democratic and economic freedoms of this nation.

The Agricultural Worker Program Act of 2019, introduced by Sen. Feinstein (S. 175) and Rep. Lofgren (H.R. 641), is a positive and workable solution in Congress that would provide a path to lawful permanent residency and citizenship for experienced agricultural workers and their family members. The bill is important for farmworkers because it would take away the constant fear of deportation and family separation. Additionally, by enabling farmworkers to do their essential work without fear, the bill would help ensure compliance with labor, pesticide and food safety laws, improving both the health of farmworkers and the security of our entire food system.