President Trump will give his State of the Union speech on Feb. 4. ( File photo )

U.S. representative Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., whose district includes Salinas and other fresh produce growing areas, has invited a farmworker as guest to the State of the Union address.

Pablo Martinez, who worked in Monterey County fields for 16 years, harvesting grapes, lettuce, strawberries, broccoli and other produce, is the president of the Dreamers in Action Club at Monterey Peninsula College, where he graduated in 2019, according to a news release.

Panetta is one of the sponsors of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which was introduced with bipartisan support.

"For us as undocumented people, we deserve to have a path to citizenship because we work hard but at the same time we are in the shadows,” Martinez said in the release. “We don’t have a voice, and we can’t participate in this country as any other community members do. It is important that we have some legalization for farmworkers.”

Panetta said the central coast of California has deep roots with people like Martinez who come to the U.S. to work in fields.

“Unfortunately, our current immigration system does not recognize those vital contributions to our economy and communities and has left many agriculture workers unprotected and unable to fully integrate into our society,” Panetta said in the release.

The House has approved the legislation, but it needs approval by the Senate, and ultimately, President Trump.

“I am proud to have Pablo as my guest at the State of the Union to show the administration and my colleagues in Congress why we must continue to fight to protect our agriculture and our farmworkers who have and will continue to contribute so much to our communities and country," Panetta said in the release.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has invoted former United Farm Workers president and UFW Foundation spokesperson Arturo Rodriguez as her guest the State of the Union, according to a news release. The lawmarkers and their their guests, Rodriguez and Martinez, played key roles in the House passage, according to the release.

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Produce groups call for action on farm labor reform

 
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