National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America


Senate Hearing Examines Solutions to our Agricultural Labor Crisis

October 04, 2011


Washington, D.C. — On October 4, the Senate Immigration Subcommittee held a hearing on the agricultural labor crisis and immigration. Following is a statement by Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum.


“The U.S. House of Representatives is now considering a law, which if approved, could result in the loss of the estimated three-quarters of America’s agricultural workforce that is undocumented and cause consumer prices to skyrocket. 


The House bill will require employers to use an electronic worker verification system to verify that workers have permission to work in the U.S. Implementing this system without broader reforms to the immigration system that will put agricultural workers on a path to legal status will leave crops rotting in the fields — a critical point that agricultural producers have been trying to make to anyone who will listen.


Happily the Senate is listening.  They understand that it makes no sense to send the workers who pick and process our food out of the country. Not only will U.S. produce rot, U.S. consumer prices will increase dramatically and drastically.


Agricultural producers need a solution that removes the uncertainty about their labor force — an uncertainty not caused by the unpredictability of the weather or the price of fuel, but by the inaction of Congress over many years to reform our immigration system. Solutions have been proposed, and await Congressional action. 


AgJOBS is one such solution. A carefully crafted compromise between agricultural producers and worker advocates, it would legalize the workers who producers rely on. The need to give farm workers the ability to stay and continue to pick our crops is one piece of the need to reform an immigration system that no longer works for America.


The House could learn something from the cry for help we heard in the Senate today. Speaker Boehner should see to it that the bill passed in the House Judiciary Committee goes no further. Forcing employers to use an electronic worker verification system without dealing realistically with our undocumented workforce will deal a major blow to America’s food security.”





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