Four representatives of the California Strawberry Commission plan to meet with the state’s Republican congressmen in Washington, D.C., this week to lobby for immigration reform.
Victor Ramirez, commission chairman and a Watsonville-based strawberry grower, plans to join the commission’s former president Mark Murai, treasurer Lorena Chavez, and Salinas grower Jesus Alvarado at the U.S. House of Representatives July 31 to Aug. 2.
The final day is a scheduled policy roundtable with White House staff, said Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director for the California Strawberry Commission.
The trip follows the recent release of a White House report, “Fixing Our Broken Immigration System: The Economic Benefits to Agriculture and Rural Communities,” that outlines potential costs to agriculture in California and elsewhere of loss of migrant labor.
The state would stand to lose from $1.73 billion to $3.12 billion in production value for its crops within five years if migrant labor were eliminated, according to data cited in the report. It pegs the share of non-citizen farm workers in California agriculture at 73%.
“Growers from both Watsonille-Salinas and Santa Maria want to really put a face on what a lack of workable immigration reform does,” O’Donnell said. “Not only what it does to business and farms, but what it does to the individuals affected.”
“Having a workable guest worker program is important,” she said. “That would allow people who want to cross the border and then go back home to their families, to do so.”
See related story: "Study focuses on economic effect of immigration reform"