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Will proposed immigration changes help Florida farm workers?

As our readers are probably already aware, Florida has multiple farms producing tomatoes, oranges and other produce. These farms rely on employment immigration for the manpower needed to harvest the fruit and vegetables. Without the influx of employment-based immigration, these farms would likely fail as there are few citizens willing to take on the physically taxing, low-paying labor. While proposed immigration law reform seeks to address the millions of immigrants that live illegally in the U.S., there is some concern among this group that they will be ignored by lawmakers.

Many groups say that undocumented farm workers are at a distinct disadvantage due to their non-legal status. Many immigrants entered the U.S. illegally in order to take advantage of the abundance of agricultural jobs that were left unfilled by American workers. However, this has also left them vulnerable to mistreatment. The wages they earn are much lower than what citizen farm workers make.

There is some concern that proposed immigration reform will fail to address the plight of these workers. While it is reported that part of the legislation addresses the importance of farm workers, it is unknown exactly how the reform will assist these workers. One immigrant worker group says the current H2-A employment visa program is unfair to workers because they can be shipped back to their home country if the employer can't use them and they can't easily obtain another job. The program is designed as a guest visa program that brings foreign workers to the U.S. for a limited period of time.

Lawmakers should consider the great contribution that these workers make in the food industry and keep that in mind during the immigration reform planning process.

Source: Florida Watchdog, "Ag workers fear falling in immigration limbo," Marianela Toledo, Feb. 22, 2013

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