Things That Matter

The House Just Introduced A Bipartisan Plan To Help Undocumented Farmworkers But Will The White House Support It?

The United States’ agricultural business is largely ran on the back of undocumented foreign labor. In fact, more than 50% of those employed in agriculture are undocumented. That means there are more than a million people living in the shadows but who a vital part of delivering food to American households.

Not only do they live in the shadows for fear of deportation but many are even too afraid to access much needed healthcare or to speak out against employee abuse.

To help address these very real concerns, a bipartisan group of lawmakers have been quietly working out the details of a bill that could help.

The bipartisan bill was announced on Wednesday and may actually have a chance at being passed.

Lawmakers have struck a deal that would give legal status to hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrant farmworkers in exchange for stronger employee verification in the agricultural sector.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, who chairs the immigration subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, led negotiations on the deal with Republican Reps. Doug LaMalfa of Richvale (Butte County) and Dan Newhouse of Washington state.

“The men and women who work America’s farms feed the nation. But, farmworkers across the country are living and working with uncertainty and fear, contributing to the destabilization of farms across the nation,” Lofgren said in a statement. “Our bill offers stability for American farms.”

If it passes the House, the bill still faces an uncertain future in the Senate. It’s also unclear whether President Trump will back it.

However, the bill would face a more uncertain fate in the Republican-controlled Senate.

If 20 Republicans are willing to put their names on the effort, it could show the reach of interest from the GOP side of the aisle to address a very specific portion of the immigrant workforce that is crucial to many of their districts’ economies.

In addition to Diaz-Balart’s participation in negotiations, another Republican at the table has been Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington, according to two congressional sources.

The bill could offer hope to more than a million people across the US.

Hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers already in California could be eligible to get on a path to citizenship if the bill becomes law, and employers would be able to take advantage of the reformed visa process to hire new foreign workers legally.

If the bill can pass the House, one supporter in the Senate will be California Democrat Dianne Feinstein. She said in a statement provided to The Chronicle that she will work to try to pass the legislation in the upper chamber.

“Our broken immigration system has created shortages of farm labor across California and the rest of our country,” Feinstein said. “This bipartisan bill will fix that and bring farmworkers out of the shadows. It’s time we give farmers the help they need while protecting the hardworking people who put food on our tables.”

United Farm Workers, the union that represents agricultural workers, has come out in support of the bill.

According to a summary of the bill obtained by McClatchy, the so-called Farm Workforce Modernization Act would provide a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants who have already been working in the farm and agriculture industry for at least two years and plan to continue in this sector. 

It would make changes to the H2-A visa program, which farmers use to hire foreign nationals for seasonal agriculture work, to make it easier for employers to fill crucial workforce gaps while providing more protections for the workers themselves.

And as a sweetener for immigration hardliners, the measure would make E-Verify — the web-based system that allows businesses to confirm whether their employees are eligible to work in the United States — mandatory for the agriculture sector.

However, because of the expansion of the E-Verify system not everyone is on-board with the legislation.

“We are opposed to E-Verify in principle but as part of a compromise for legalization and more workers, it’d be a sacrifice worth making,” said Cato policy analyst David Bier. Bier said he had heard that “a bipartisan group is close to a deal” on the proposal.

Some farmworker advocates are lobbying to grant farmworkers legal status without requiring future E-Verify checks, while some Republicans want mandatory E-Verify use without granting legal status to any current workers.

A position paper from the Farm Bureau last year said the group would consider mandatory E-Verify in exchange for granting legal status to current workers and a better guest-worker visa program.

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Chicago’s Mi Tocaya Is Offering Up Free Mexican Homemeals For Undocumented Community

Culture

Chicago’s Mi Tocaya Is Offering Up Free Mexican Homemeals For Undocumented Community

mitocaya / Instagram

Undocumented communities are being left out of Covid relief plans. Chef Diana Dávila of Mi Tocaya in Chicago is working to help undocumented restaurant worker in the time of Covid. Abuse of undocumented workers is rampant in certain industries and Chef Dávila hopes to offer some kind of help.

Mi Tocaya is a Mexican restaurant in Chicago’s Logan Square that wants to help the community.

Covid-19 has devastated the hospitality industry with restaurants being hit exceptionally hard. Restaurants have been forced to close their doors for good as the virus dragged on with no decent relief plan from the federal government. As several countries financially support citizens to avoid economic disaster, the U.S. government has given citizens $1,800 total to cover 10 months of isolating and business closures.

Namely, Mi Tocaya is working to help the undocumented community.

Mi Tocaya, a family-run restaurant, is teaming up with Chicago’s Top Chefs and local non-profits Dishroulette Kitchen and Logan Square Neighborhood Association. The goal is to highlight the issues facing the undocumented community during the pandemic.

The initiative called Todos Ponen, is all about uplifting members of our community in a time of severe need. The restaurant is creating healthy Mexican family meals for those in need.

”We asked ourselves; How can we keep our doors open, provide a true service to the community, maintain and create jobs, and keep the supply chain intact by supporting local farmers and vendors. This is the answer,” Chef Dávila said in a statement. “I confidently believe The TODOS PONEN Logan Square Project addresses all of the above and can very well be easily implemented in any community. Our goal is to bring awareness to the lack of resources available to the undocumented workforce- the backbone of our industry.”

The initiative starts in February.

Mi Tocaya is offering 1000 free meals for local farmers and undocumented restaurant workers. The meals are available for pickup Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 2800 W Logan Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647. to make this happen, Mi Tocaya also needs your help.

The restaurant has teamed up with two nonprofits to make sure that they can scale their operation to fulfill their commitment. They are also asking for donations to make sure they can do what they can to help undocumented restaurant workers.

According to Eater LA, 8 million restaurant workers have been laid off since the pandemic started. Some restaurants have had to lay off up to 91 percent of their staff because of Covid, about 10 percent of those are undocumented. In the cities, that number is as high as 40 percent of the laid-off restaurant staff are undocumented.

“People don’t want to talk about the undocumented workforce, but they’re part of our daily routine in most restaurants,” Jackson Flores, who manages the operations of Mi Tocaya, said in a statement. “They are in the toughest position in the whole economy because they’re an invisible part of it. Restaurant worker advocacy groups have added the creation of relief funds to their agendas, but there have yet to be long-term changes in protections for undocumented workers. Without access to unemployment benefits and other government resources, this group is especially vulnerable.”

READ: Hands-Free Cholula Dispensers Have Become a Thing In Restaurants Because of COVID-19

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California Sets Vaccination Plan For Agricultural Workers During Next Phase

Things That Matter

California Sets Vaccination Plan For Agricultural Workers During Next Phase

Brent Stirton / Getty Images

The world is racing to vaccinate everyone to put a stop to the relentless Covid-19 pandemic. In the U.S., states and counties are rolling out their own plans based on suggestions from health experts. California, home to the largest population of farmworkers, is making them a priority.

California has laid out their vaccination plan and farmworkers are being prioritized.

California is facing a relentless Covid-19 surge of infections, deaths, and hospitalizations. According to The New York Times, California has the second-highest level of infections per capita in the U.S. More than 30,000 people have died of Covid in California and the vaccination effort has been severely lagging.

California’s vaccination plan has been criticized for its very slow roll out.

According to the California Department of Public Health, more than 816,000 doses of the virus have been given to residents. There have been more than 2 million vaccine doses shipped to California. Currently, California, the most populated state in the country, is still in Phase 1A. Phase 1A is for healthcare workers and long-term care residents. The Vaccinate All 58 campaign claims that there are 3 million people in California in Phase 1A. Almost 40 million people live in California.

Activists have been calling on Governor Gavin Newsom to make sure that farmworkers are prioritized.

California is home to the largest concentration of farmworkers in the U.S. The Center for Farmworker Families claims that 500,000 to 800,000 farmworkers, or about 1/3 to 1/2 of the farmworker populations, live in California. Seventy-five percent of farmworkers in California are undocumented.

As the rest of the state was able to shelter in place, farmworkers did not stop working. They provided a necessary lifeline to the nation in keeping the food supply running. Farmworkers are more likely to contract Covid because of their living conditions. Studies show that the low wages that farmworkers are paid means that many live in crowded conditions.

READ: As The U.S. Rolls Out The COVID-19 Vaccine, What’s The Future Of Vaccine Access In Latin America?

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