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Congressman Luis Gutierrez

Representing the 4th District of Illinois

Gutiérrez Discusses New Agricultural Worker Program Act to Legalize Farm Workers

May 9, 2017
Press Release
“This legislation says to farm workers that we value your contributions and see you as legitimate and our laws ought to reflect that.”

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) participated in a teleconference with reporters discussing the new Agricultural Worker Program Act, legislation that he will introduce shortly in the House of Representatives to legalize farm workers in the United States.  The legislation would allow those who have worked in U.S. agriculture to apply for a “Blue Card,” granting them a kind of temporary legal immigration status that could eventually lead to a Green Card (permanent residency) if the conditions of the program are met and the worker meets eligibility criteria.  A summary of the bill from Farmworker Justice (FJ) is here: https://bit.ly/FWJonAWPA

Congressman Gutiérrez said:

“We are taking steps to get our agriculture industry – the food we eat every day – on a legal footing.  Not just for the immigrant worker, not just for the family, not just because it makes us feel good, but because our agriculture industry and our workforce in farm labor should be on a legal footing.”

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) already introduced the bill in the Senate (bill text pdf: https://bit.ly/2pwAFPE) and Senators Leahy (D-VT), Bennet (D-CO), Hirono (D-HI), and Harris (D-CA) are co-sponsors.  Senator Feinstein joined the press conference call, which was hosted by the United Farm Workers union (UFW).  UFW President Arturo Rodriguez served as the moderator and they were joined by Shah Kazemi (owner of Monterey Mushroom farm in California), Sagrario Arellano (farm worker and UFW member), Lourdes Cardenas (farm worker and UFW member), and Bruce Goldstein (Executive Director, FJ).

Link to UFW press release: https://ufw.org/sen-feinstein-rep-gutierrez-labor-movement-advocates-review-efforts-to-protect-immigrant-farmworkers-and-discuss-their-contributions/

Link to Sen. Feinstein press release: https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?id=A7920354-F4C1-48CB-95CF-9F25298EEDFB

An mp3 recording of the press conference call can be downloaded here: https://bit.ly/2pZ3DL0

Rep. Gutiérrez’ remarks, as prepared for delivery, are pasted below.

Rep. Gutiérrez is in his 13th term representing the Fourth District of Illinois.  He is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and is the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Rep. Gutiérrez Remarks:

I am delighted to team with the Senior Senator from California Diane Feinstein on this effort and to be working with my friends – including Arturo Rodriguez from the United Farmworkers union.  I have traveled many, many times to Delano, the Central Coast, and the Big Valley and all over California and met with farm workers.  They are among the hardest working and most vulnerable people I have ever met.  That is why we are working to build support for the bill in the House and plan to introduce the Agricultural Worker Program Act in our chamber in the next few weeks.

Farm workers provide backbreaking labor that keeps our economy going and keeps our food production on American soil.  We benefit greatly from their hard work and eat and drink the products, the milk, the fruits, the strawberries, and the sweat of their work every single day.  But we do not fully recognize those contributions by allowing workers to work legally, protected by our labor laws, and fully integrating into American society.

We benefit from them, but we do not have a legal way for them to come here or a way for them to get legal once they are here.

It is as if we are saying that you can stoop over in our fields, but we are going to treat you as outsiders – never part of America’s society, never able to become citizens, never able to keep your families together under the protection of and in compliance with U.S. law.

We wink and nod.  We know that every time we have a nice glass of wine or a delicious apple or open up a yogurt, that immigrant hands touched that food, brought it to our grocery store and got it to our table.

We know.  There is no way anyone cannot know.

And we know those immigrant hands are rough, sunburned, blistered and they hold tools, but they do not hold the documents that allow someone to live openly, freely, confidently in our country. 

This legislation moves us in the direction of recognizing their humanity, their aspirations, their families and their future in this country. 

This legislation says to farm workers that we value your contributions and see you as legitimate and our laws ought to reflect that.

We are taking steps to get our agriculture industry – the food we eat every day – on a legal footing.  Not just for the immigrant worker, not just for the family, not just because it makes us feel good, but because our agriculture industry and our workforce in farm labor should be on a legal footing. 

Businessmen and women should know that they can operate under the law in this country and compete with each other fairly, employing workers who are on solid ground, protected by our labor laws, and being paid above-board.

And if we fail to do that, we will see more and more of the food we eat being grown overseas.

Foreign hands are going to touch the food we eat and the question before us is whether those foreign hands will cultivate our food in this country under our laws, benefiting our economy or whether it will be in some other country that may or may not have labor laws, may or may not have environmental and food quality laws.

Look, we are fighting this President on many fronts and we have to play both offense and defense.  We are taking on the President’s deportation agenda with this bill, just as we are taking him on in the courts, in the congressional appropriations process, and in communities across the country by protecting immigrants with deep ties to the United States and no way of obtaining legal status.

So I want to thank the Senator and UFW and the workers and employers we will hear from today and I am just so pleased to be part of this effort.

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RESOURCES:

AWPA/Blue Card Bill Summary - FileBlue Card summary.docx

AWPA/Blue Card Section-by-Section FileAgriculatural Worker Program Act of 2017_Section.by_.section_final.docx

AWPA/Blue Card Bill Text House PDF iconGUTIER_009_xml.pdf

AWPA/Blue Card Organizational Sign-on Letter PDF icon5-3-2017AgWorkerProgramActSignOnLtr.pdf