In its ongoing efforts to push for immigration reform, the White House has released a report on the economic benefits of reform to the agriculture industry and to rural areas.
“Currently, the agriculture industry is hampered by a broken immigration system that fails to support a predictable and stable workforce,” the 20-page report warns.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture report found that 71 percent of crop workers surveyed between 2007 and 2009 were foreign-born and many lack the immigration status needed to work legally in the United States.
Among the provisions supported by the White House in a Senate-approved immigration reform package would be an earned path to citizenship for unauthorized farmworkers who it says are vital to the country’s agriculture industry. A new temporary worker program negotiated by major grower associations and farmworker groups also is part of the package.
The Senate bill allows workers to receive an earned path to citizenship through a new “blue card” program.
The legislation would establish a program for earned citizenship for agriculture workers and their spouses and children — provided they pass national security and criminal background checks and prove that applicable taxes have been paid. Individuals who are 16 years or older would have to pay a processing fee, and those over 21 would have to pay a $100 penalty in addition to the processing fee. If they continue to work in agriculture, they would be eligible to apply for permanent resident status after five years, and eventually citizenship — half the time of others in the country illegally.
For a personal look at the world of the migrant crop worker, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, of “Super Size Me” fame, recently spent a day picking oranges with a group of legal migrant workers. Spurlock took 15 minutes to fill a bag of oranges, when it should have taken him four, to show that it is a fatiguing occupation in difficult conditions where American workers rarely last longer than a week. Spurlock’s effort lasted one day.