Immigration Advocates Continue to Push for Immigration Reform with Multiple Actions
As we previously discussed, recent statements from House leadership have made it unlikely the House will act on immigration reform this year. Supporters of immigration reform, including growers, have expressed outrage at the Speaker’s bold refusal to do his job and undertake the work needed to fix our broken immigration system this year. Despite challenges ahead in 2014, however, immigration reform is far from dead. In fact, on Thursday Speaker Boehner stated that immigration reform is not dead and that the House would continue to work on the issue. The successful passage of immigration reform legislation next year continues to be viable because there is broad support for reform and immigration reform advocates remain committed to making it happen. Every week brings new actions for immigration reform, with events and fasting taking place across the country.
Immigrant Farmworkers, Labor Leaders and Immigration Advocates to the House of Representatives: “Do Your Jobs” on Immigration
On Thursday, Farmworker Justice assisted UFW farmworkers, labor leaders and advocates in delivering turkeys and merlot to the offices of House leadership and other key Members to “remind them who’s working hard for America while they’re taking more days off.” Representatives from the United Farm Workers (UFW), the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the AFL-CIO, Mi Familia Vota, America’s Voice and two UFW members, Adelaida Mendoza and Maria Ramirez, held a press conference before making the deliveries. Adelaida and Maria are immigrant farmworkers who cultivate and harvest the grapes to make the merlot (which is reportedly Boehner’s favorite type of wine) that was delivered. The turkeys came were processed by immigrants. Although not a Member of leadership, King received the gift because he is the most outspoken Member to oppose legalization of undocumented immigrants and he has made offensive statements about immigrants in the past. He also has a lot of poultry processing plants in his district.
Factsheets describing the poor wages and working conditions of farmworkers and food processing workers were delivered along with the turkeys. The factsheets were also delivered to other Members’ offices, along with a donation to a local food bank on behalf of the Member and immigrant food workers. The factsheets pointed out that the House will only be in session for 8 more days out of the remaining 40 days this year and included the message, “We work hard for America. When will you work for us?” and “We do our job, now it’s time for you to do yours and GIVE US A VOTE on immigration reform.” The campaign is a response to House leadership statements that there is no time left this year to address immigration reform. House leadership sets the legislative calendar and may change it at any time.
When the group arrived at Speaker Boehner’s office they met a pro-immigration reform delegation from Arizona which has been praying outside of Boehner’s office for days. Speaker Boehner’s staff did not open the door to speak with the farmworkers. However, staff members in other offices did open the doors and accept the turkeys.
Fasters for Immigration Reform (Fast for Families) Enter Day 14
On the mall, Eliseo Medina of SEIU, Dae Joong Yoon of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), Cristian Avila of Mi Familia Vota, and Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) continue to fast for immigration reform even though they have already lost more than 10 lbs. each. Other advocates for reform in DC and around the country are participating in solidarity fasts for 1 to 7 days. The fasters have received a number of high profile visitors including Vice President Biden, Gloria Steinem, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Representatives Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), David Valadao (R-CA) and Jeff Denham (R-CA). For more information, visit http://fast4families.org/.
Dear Colleague Letter in Opposition to Rep. Goodlatte’s “Agricultural Guestworker Act,” H.R. 1773
On Wednesday, California Representatives Tony Cárdenas, Judy Chu and George Miller circulated a Dear Colleague letter, which expresses the members’ strong opposition to Rep. Goodlatte’s “Agricultural Guestworker Act,” H.R. 1773. The letter describes farmworkers’ current poor living and working conditions and explains how H.R. 1773 would exacerbate these conditions by creating a massive new guestworker program with fewer protections than the notoriously abusive Bracero program.
H-2A Program Use Continues to Rise
As we all know, immigration reform is desperately needed. In agriculture, the increased use of the H-2A temporary agricultural guestworker program is one more indicator of the need for immigration reform. In FY 2013, the Department of Labor certified 98,813 positions for H-2A temporary agricultural visa workers. This number is up 15.9% from FY 2012 and 45.1% from FY 2011. This increased use demonstrates that the H-2A program is not, as many growers argue, unworkable, overly burdensome and prohibitively costly. The complaints about the “burdensome” regulations generally refer to the very modest Reagan-era protections restored by the Obama Administration after the Bush Administration sought to limit and eliminate many of these key protections. These protections are intended to protect US farmworkers from displacement and from negative impacts on their wages and working conditions while also protecting guestworkers from abuse. The protections are not adequate and abuse of US workers and guestworkers is rampant in the H-2A program. Rep. Goodlatte’s H.R. 1773 would exacerbate the H-2A program’s abuses and would devastate the agricultural labor force: US farmworkers would be displaced as growers would have easy access to an oversupply of foreign labor at low cost; undocumented farmworkers would have no chance to become members of our society; and the life for agricultural guestworkers would become even more dire with depressed wages and working conditions and extreme vulnerability with no meaningful access to justice. Instead of an increase in exploitable temporary guestworkers who have no right to become members of our society, our nation needs immigration reform that offers current hard-working farmworkers a path to citizenship. Congress should support the agricultural stakeholder agreement, which is included in both H.R. 15 and the immigration bill passed out of the Senate, S. 744. The agricultural stakeholder agreement includes both a viable path to citizenship for farmworkers and balanced changes to seek to create a new workable guestworker program.