Around 50 to 70 percent farmworkers in the United States are undocumented immigrants who provide valuable services to the country for extremely low wages yet receive little to no legal protection or health care services.
Now, thanks to President Donald Trump and his administration’s crusade against immigrants, now these workers are even afraid to step out in public places over fears of arrests and deportations.
“Farmworkers who are undocumented have same rights under labor laws. For example, they are still covered by the minimum wage even though they are undocumented,” Bruce Goldstein, president of Washington D.C.-based advocacy group Farmworker Justice, told Carbonated.TV. “But the problem is that undocumented workers are usually too afraid of being detected and deported to challenge unfair or illegal conduct. So the laws don’t do much to protect undocumented farmworkers and they are too afraid to use the law to protect themselves.”
Trump’s xenophobic policies have forced these workers and their children, including those born in the U.S., to live in constant fear of being torn apart from their families.
“The Trump administration has caused a lot of fear in farmworker communities. That in turn causes farmworkers to be afraid to go out in public places,” Goldstein explained. “There are not enough people available to do farm work in the United States to replace deported immigrants. It would be really devastating to our agricultural and food system if a substantial number of farmworkers were deported.”
Recently, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced the Agricultural Worker Program Act of 2017, a bill designed to help undocumented workers, who have worked in agriculture for at least 100 days in each of the past two years, acquire a legal status.
“It would allow undocumented farmworkers and their immediate family members who are undocumented to obtain an immigration status leading to a Green Card and a path to U.S. citizenship,” Goldstein continued, explaining how the program would work. “The undocumented farmworkers could apply for a Blue Card, which would allow them to stay in the country, work and to travel abroad. If they then continue to work in agriculture for a period of time, the Blue Card holders would get a Green Card – a permanent immigration status – and so would their family members.”
After five years with Green Card, the card holders would be eligible for U.S. citizenship.
Deportation is not the only threat thee farmworkers are facing. The American Health Care Act, which narrowly passed the House of Representatives, would kick scores of low-income immigrants off health insurance.
“Farmworkers are performing honorable work in the United States. It is not the fault of farmworkers the immigration system is broken,” Goldstein concluded. “We need immigration reform that grants farmworkers, who are undocumented, the opportunity to earn legal immigration status.”
Farmworker Justice is a nonprofit organization that seeks to empower migrant and seasonal farmworkers to improve their living and working conditions, immigration status, health, occupational safety, and access to justice.
Watch the complete interview in the video above.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters