Farmers Concerned About E-Verify Immigration Bill

Concerned that an immigration reform bill proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives will make it difficult for them to hire needed workers, California farmers hope for an amendment to the legislation, The Fresno Bee reports.

The bill, introduced by Representative Lamar Hunt, a Texas Republican, requires all U.S. businesses to use a federal database called E-Verify to confirm employees’ citizenship status. California farmers say if the bill passes, they will be unable to hire enough documented workers to do essential jobs like picking crops and tending livestock, according to the Bee.

In response to farmers’ concerns, Representative Dan Lundgren, a Republican from California, is drafting an amendment to create a special foreign guest worker designation, the news source reports. Immigrants granted this designation could work agriculture sector jobs in the U.S. for 10 months out of the year, provided farm employers advertise the positions to U.S. residents as well. The amendment also stipulates farmers pay a government-determined wage and provide free housing and transportation to foreign guest workers.

Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers, told the Bee he supports Lundgren’s amendment, though he is concerned it does not protect undocumented workers already employed by farmers.

At least 50 percent of all U.S. agricultural laborers are undocumented immigrants, according to the United Farm Workers.