California FB’s Wenger Calls for Immigration Solutions
Washington--Focusing on the lack of a workable, effective program to allow immigrant workers to earn legal authorization to work on U.S. farms and ranches, the president of the California Farm Bureau Federation told Congress on Thursday that without such a program, passage of a proposed employment-verification rule would severely disrupt harvests of locally produced food.
California Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger testified in Washington, D.C., at a hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement. Congress has been considering a proposal to require all employers to check employees’ work status with a database known as the E-Verify system. Farmers rely on an immigrant workforce and say many of their employees might not qualify to work under E-Verify, even though the employees have worked in this country and become part of their communities.
“E-Verify without a workable, economical way to ensure a legal agricultural workforce will be a disaster for American agriculture,” Wenger told the committee, adding that experience has shown that “there is no realistic prospect of a domestic workforce for agriculture, even with current high unemployment rates.”
As the U.S. labor force has grown older, more urban and focused on year-round jobs with predictable work hours, Wenger said, “our native-born seek other jobs outside the agriculture sector.” That means that farms and ranches rely on hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers—and experts estimate many do not have legal authorization to work in the U.S.