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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.

Farmworkers Are Putting Their Lives At Risk As They Continue To Work The Fields Despite Raging Wildfires

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Farmworkers Are Putting Their Lives At Risk As They Continue To Work The Fields Despite Raging Wildfires

@track607 / Twitter

Natural disasters bring the best in people, but often also the worst. The recent California fires have highlighted the deep inequalities in the state when it comes to socioeconomic status. While the media went head over heels over which celebrity had had to flee their home (pobrecitos!) or which vineyard had been set ablaze (wine, after all, is a luxury rather than a life sustaining product), few have stopped to think about the long lasting effects that the fires have had on the hundreds of workers (some of them undocumented) who keep the region afloat by farming, cleaning and organizing various production processes. 

Well, what you will read now will make your blood boil, as it reveals the deep divide between the haves and the have-nots in the world. 

As the region of Sonoma, California, is still burning residents have fled but farmers are still working away.

Credit: napavalley / Instagram

When fields burn, the air becomes a toxic mix of dust, ashes and harmful gases (imagine smoking 20 cigarettes in less than an hour and you will get an idea of how poisonous this melange can be). Well, residents of the area affected by the Kincade Fire were evacuated when air quality dropped. However, field workers were still expected to toil in the fields.  According to reports, some of these workers were still being bused to and from the fields even as the fires burnt. What people are willing to risk in the name of profit, eh? Just no! As reported by Eater San Francisco, Ariel Kelly, the CEO of community-based recovery effort Corazón Healdsburg, said: “we had about 90 farmworkers in our shelter leave on buses with their employer to go out and pick and then return back to the shelter”. 

The quality of the air was deemed as dangerous! But “they are only field workers”, right? This is totally outrageous! 

Credit: 10kbottles / Instagram

So what does this tell us? That someone, somewhere, decided that the lives of some actual human beings are more valuable than those of others? You bet that’s what happened. We just can’t understand how this thought, which is nothing short of a disgusting act of negligence, can cross someone’s mind. Of course, farmers are mostly migrants who feel, and are, in a vulnerable and marginalized position in which they can’t afford to fight back. Sonoma authorities said: “if somebody wants perfect health, they need to leave our community, because we have smoke here.”

Volunteers came to their aid…

Credit: Sonoma / Instagram

Regardless of the working agreement a company or farm has with a worker, some basic safety needs to be provided. If not legal (because some of these workers live in the dark shadows of an undocumented status that makes them vulnerable), this is at least an ethical mandate. But in the California fires it was volunteers who came to their aid. As reported by Eater San Francisco: “around 300 farm workers sought makeshift shelter in Cloverdale’s Citrus Fairgrounds. Area volunteers rushed to assist the workers and their families, many of whom had fled via car, with little more than the clothes on their backs”. This is such a stark image of negligence. But will someone ever be held accountable?

If they don’t work, they don’t get paid, so they risked their lives to survive (what a contradiction, eh?)

Credit: thelegionofbloomca / Instagram

According to Ariel Kelly from community-based recovery effort Corazón Healdsburg these workers were not even given masks to at least protect themselves from direct contact with the fumes. They are willing to work under these conditions because they get paid per shift and not showing up translates into not being paid, and possibly into not being chosen to work again. Because the extent of the damage caused by the fires remains uncertain, many of these workers want to get what could be the last few pays before a hiatus with no income. 

They are mostly uninsured and live hand to mouth. To top that, they are now unsure about how they will be able to provide for their families.

Credit: machvox/ Instagram

Maegan Ortiz, the executive director of el Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California, told The Guardian, “For a lot of day laborers and household workers, not having a day’s work often means the difference between houselessness or not.  Not having a day’s work is actually a big deal. Not working means not having money for medication for a chronic illness. Not working means not having money for food”. When we read stories like this we can’t help but wonder how on Earth there are still some that think that migrant workers are lazy or that they don’t contribute to the economy, when in fact they are giving everything to make a living. Even if it means risking their health. One thing is for certain. They deserve, and need, more protection. 

The Details Of Bernie Sanders Immigration Plan Are Out And Here’s What He Wants To Do

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The Details Of Bernie Sanders Immigration Plan Are Out And Here’s What He Wants To Do

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Senator Bernie Sanders released a comprehensive immigration plan where he plans to completely overhaul the system, and undo much of the Trump Administration’s policies, using executive orders and legislative action. 

The 2020 presidential candidate, and a front-runner, proposed placing a moratorium on deportations, ending ICE raids, halting construction of Trump’s wall at the southern border, ending family separation, and closing for-profit detention centers on day one of his administration should he win. 

Under the Vermont senator’s “A Welcoming and Safe America For All” plan he hopes to entirely restructure the Department of Homeland Security which could mean the end of ICE. Under a Sanders’ administration, the agency’s duties would be folded into the Justice Department, while Customs and Border Protection would operate under the Treasury Department. 

Sanders plans to undo the Trump administration’s discriminatory practices. 

The plan will reverse Trump’s orders and allow asylum seekers fleeing domestic violence and gang violence to begin the immigration process. 

According to CNN, it would, “also overturn Trump’s so-called ‘public charge’ rule and ensure that immigrants are not discriminated against based on income or disability, while extending temporary protected status until more permanent resolutions are in place, invalidating Trump’s efforts to end those designations.”

He would also eliminate DNA testing and facial recognition software while implementing anti-profiling guidance from the Department of Justice. 

Dreamers stand to receive more protection. 

Finishing the work of Obama and expanding it, Sanders would extend legal status to 1.8 million young people who are eligible Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program recipients. Using an executive order he would allow 85 percent of undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for more than five years to be free from deportation, which would also expand the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program. 

In addition, Sanders would urge Congress to create a five-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants without reducing the amount of “traditional, family-based visas.” 

Under Sanders’ plan undocumented immigration would largely be decriminalized at multiple levels.

Not only would detention end for migrants without criminal convictions, but they would also be given community-based alternatives that would provide access to health care and legal resources. Moreover, crossing the border would be decriminalized completely. 

“Punitive policies have been justified as a deterrent to migration, but in addition to being morally wrong, there is no evidence that these policies have served this purpose,” Sanders states in the plan.“The criminalization of immigrants has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars, dehumanized vulnerable migrants, and swelled already-overcrowded jails and prisons.”

The Trump administration used Section 1325 of Title 8 of the U.S. Code, which makes crossing the border without first being inspected by an immigration officer a misdemeanor offense, to justify separating families at the border. Sanders would repeal the section. 

Immigrants would have more labor rights under Sanders’ plan. 

Sanders hopes to prioritize the interests of immigrants in trade negotiations. The plan would create a whistleblower visa where immigrants could report illegal actions without fear of deportation or retribution. This would ensure that domestic and farm workers are paid a $15 per hour minimum wage regardless of status. 

In his plan, immigrants would have access to his new social programs like Medicare for All, free college, and free school meals. Finally, Sanders would create a program to accept 50,000 climate change refugees within his first year in office. 

“I remember in some early, private meetings he had in 2015 with young undocumented people, he came away so moved, and the connection that was created between him and those young immigrants has really been enduring and what motivates his desire to see this inhumane immigration system to be reformed,” Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ senior adviser, told CNN.”Those meetings were some of the most personally moving for him in my time with him.”

Critics react to Sanders’ plan. 

“Bernie’s immigration plan is not just a total rejection of Trump’s xenophobic policies. It’s also a truly radical break with the bipartisan war on immigrants that made Trump possible,” author Daniel Denvir wrote on Twitter, praising the Senator.  

“He rejects establishment’s beloved comprehensive immigration reform model of trading draconian enforcement for a legalization that never comes. This is a condemnation of Bush and Obama’s political strategy of mass deportation and border militarization in the name of compromise, Denvir asserted.

However, others were more skeptical of how Sanders plans to execute his lofty ideals. 

“While he proposes integrating migrants in communities, Sanders does little to explain how he would help cities shoulder the burden and provide housing,” Ian Kullgran wrote for Politico. “Nor does Sanders explain how he would background-check migrants as levels rise. The expansion of DACA and DAPA, for example, would require the U.S. to screen entrants’ criminal backgrounds … but Sanders does not say how he would do that once ICE and CBP are dismantled.”