It wasn’t the million man march, but media reports say a crowd of about 100 marched April 8 in an organized protest in Livingston, Calif. against Immigrations and Customs Enforcement action against the farm worker community.
Check out coverage in the Merced Sun Star, headlined “They marched in Livingston for immigrants, farm workers and Dreamers”
Also, The Los Angeles Times covered ICE enforcement in the central valley in a story headlined “ICE arrests farmworkers, sparking fears in the Central Valley over immigrants and the economy”
According to a news release from the United Farm Workers that landed in my inbox the other day, the protest was part of a coordinated attempt to draw attention to ICE enforcement.
From the UFW release:
Livingston, Calif.— Farm workers march in Livingston on Sunday to honor Cesar Chavez and to protest stepped up and indiscriminate ICE enforcement actions striking terror in many rural communities across California and the nation. The march, one of six this month in three states, comes only six days after funeral services in Delano for a farm worker husband and wife couple killed in a car crash while fleeing ICE agents leaving six orphaned children ages eight to 18.
United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez will help lead the Livingston march, one of four planned this month in California. A fifth march takes place in Washington state’s Yakima Valley and a sixth is set for South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. The UFW reports stepped up activities in farm communities by ICE agents randomly targeting farm workers, often as they drive to work. UFW and UFW Foundation are jointly sponsoring the event in Livingston.
TK: The protests come at the same time that House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte is making a push to win support for his H-2C legislative proposal. Goodlatte wrote a column that ran in The Packer on April 6 called “Clearing Up H-2C Confusion.” Goodlatte would like to fold in his ag guest worker bill to the broader immigration bill, Securing America’s Future Act.
For produce industry advocates, one of the big red flags in Goodlatte’s bill, the Agricultural Guestworker Act, is the legislation’s treatment of the existing work force. How will falsely documented workers, many who have been in the U.S. for years, fare under Goodlatte’s bill?
Goodlatte doesn’t exactly avoid the issue in his column, but he isn't especially reassuring:
The AG Act offers experienced, unauthorized workers the ability to participate legally in the H-2C guestworker program. These workers will not have to return to their country of origin or be required to spend 45 days outside the U.S. before they are eligible to join. Rather, workers are merely required to leave the U.S. for a nominal period of time.
After entering the program and completing a full term of work, workers must accrue 45 days outside the U.S. or an amount equal to 1/12 of their stay, whichever is less, to qualify for a visa. This cuts the touchback requirement under current law by more than half. The bill also allows workers to accrue time toward their touchback during their work authorizations.
For workers choosing to adjust to a lawful status under the H-2C program the AG Act addresses the concern that workers might be prohibited from reentering the U.S. The bill allows workers to become pre-certified to join H-2C before traveling outside the country, and requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to provide them with a document authorizing their reentry.
Later, Goodlatte concludes:
As each day brings us closer to a vote, I continue to listen to the concerns of the ag community to refine the details of this bill. But in order to get it enacted, we need ag employers and workers to support the AG Act’s inclusion in the Securing America’s Future Act.
TK: Both the immigration system and the politics of the U.S. are broken right now and election-year politics won’t make it easy to work a bipartisan fix to the system. Perhaps the best bet for growers is to turn all their attention to the existing H-2A program, since counting on the existing falsely documented migrant workers may be a losing bet during the Trump era.
That is just what more growers are doing; Department of Labor statistics show the number H-2A positions certified in California during fiscal year 2015 totaled 8,591, up 42% from 6,043 positions in fiscal year 2014.