Farm workers and immigration reform

Farming, especially corporate produce farming, is heavily dependent on immigrant labor. Temporary farmworker visas (the H-2A visa) are up. Over half of farm workers, some half million, are estimated to be unauthorized.

To protect its farm workforce, the state of California has made a special effort to get these workers vaccinated. Per the NY Times, “The challenges to getting farmworkers vaccinated go well beyond worries about their immigration status. The odds of being able to sign up for a vaccine online are low in a population that often lacks broadband access and faces language barriers. Many cannot easily reach vaccination sites in urban areas because they do not have reliable transportation or the ability to leave work in the middle of the day.”

The Biden immigration bill, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. aims to protect all workers, including unauthorized from exploitation. Per Politico, over 70 percent of federal labor standards investigations of farms found violations, including wage theft and inadequate housing and transportation, according to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute. “It’s pretty clear that the lack of a legal status leads to the ability for employers to break the law against you without much worry of getting in trouble,” Costa said. “They fear retaliation and can’t speak up in the workplace because that could lead to their deportation and they’re afraid to report violations to government officials because they don’t want to interact with officials over deportation fears.”

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