The California Farm Bureau Federation took two employers and their employees to Washington D.C. to express to congressional leaders that the current immigration reform being discussed isn’t going to work for the state. “We were trying to take employers and employees who people often think have diverging interests, but in this case, they want the same thing,” CFBF Director of Employment Policy Bryan Little said.
For the employers, the want is obvious. They need a reliable workforce to be profitable and grow and harvest the food that feeds the world. The employees want a solution as well, but not one that is going to separate them from their families for a period. “That’s one of the things that’s being talked about in Washington, requiring them to go home for a certain amount of time, nevermind some of them haven’t been to their home country in 15 or 20 years and don’t have family there anymore,” Little said.
H.R. 4760 is the immigration reform act that’s being discussed, and it includes the AG Act that will require workers to return to their home country for a period before returning. Little said one of the female employees they took on the trip did just that to get the documentation she has now. “Her attorney at the time told her that period would be between 45 days to six months. She got lucky and was able to complete that in 45 days but the closest place in Mexico where she could go was Juarez, Mexico,” Little said. “If you’re not familiar with Jaurez…there’s a lot of drug dealers and bad people hanging around there and from what I am told it’s about the most dangerous place to be a single female in Mexico.”
The employee described to congressional leaders how she had to leave her husband, daughter and job for that 45 day period, but Little said he isn’t sure if the message was indeed heard. “These (policymakers) believe that being absent from the United States and separated from their family and jobs, is not a big problem and justifiable because these people did something illegal to get to the United States,” Little said. “These are people who have done that one illegal thing and probably nothing else. But they have participated in our workforce, harvested our food and a lot of other things that have a real value to our society.”
The California Farm Bureau believes requiring workers to “touchback” with their home country will keep workers from using the program. That issue, combined with the suggested e-verify system, will just further complicate the state’s labor challenges. “It will cause a huge disruption in our workforce…we just don’t think these are viable or reasonable options,” Little added.
Listen to Little’s full interview.