California lawmakers are considering a measure to allow work permits for farm workers living in the country illegally.
A similar effort failed three years ago when it was opposed by immigrant rights groups and the state's powerful labor unions.
The legislation, which is backed by California farmers, was approved by the Assembly in June and is pending in the state Senate. It is uncertain what will happen in the Senate.
This new bill is different from the existing guest worker programs. This bill would request authority for the proposed program from DHS and DOJ.
Instead of granting temporary work visas to foreign laborers, this proposed bill would would give permits to illegal alien workers who are already living in the state and working in agriculture.
If DHS and DOJ approves, the laborers and immediate family members — spouses and children under 18 or enrolled at an accredited institution — could remain in California without threat of deportation.
The workers would have be at least 18, have already performed a minimum amount of agricultural labor in the state and pay a fee to help cover administrative costs.
California farmers who support the bill said they have been waiting for Washington to act on immigration for nearly thirty years.
The say that there is a shortage of agricultural laborers in the state and there are complicated federal requirements for guest worker programs such as the H-2A visa for temporary or seasonal farm workers.
In general, U.S.-born citizens do not want to pick crops, so California farms have to rely heavily on immigrant labor. The director of the California Farm Bureau Association says, “"We have a large population of people who came here to work, not to be any kind of a security threat to anybody.”
"And they came to work in an industry that needs them badly.
Questions/Answers:1) If approves by the California legislation, will undocumented or overstayed Vietnamese already living in California be benefited of this law?
We can't say for sure what will happen if the labor shortage continues. There are many opinions on both sides of the matter.
The H2A is for temporary agricultural workers while the EB3 is for permanent jobs. Vietnamese citizens are not included in the list of countries eligible for H2A and H2B visas. It is not realistic to expect that EB3 Unskilled worker visas would ever be possible for people living in Vietnam.”