Ag workers part of Gang-of-8 immigration plan

A bi-partisan group of Senators, four Republicans; John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, Mark Rubio of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and four Democrats; Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Chuck Schumer of New York and Michael Bennet of Colorado have come up with what they call a “tough but fair” immigration reform plan. The five-page plan from the so-called “Gang of Eight” is a general outline with specifics yet to be worked out but would tighten border security, increase guest worker permits and create a pathway to citizenship. Chris Galen with the National Milk Producers Federation says this is “a good start”.  Although the plan does not, as of yet include the provision allowing for dairy workers to stay in the country for longer periods of time, it does note the importance of agricultural workers and the need to deal with them. Special consideration will also be given to high-tech workers and those brought here illegally as children.

The Senators’ plan would allow undocumented immigrants to stay in this country under probationary legal status for an undetermined time. They would not be eligible for citizenship until those who legally applied for it get theirs. Border security would be established by a commission composed of governors, attorneys general and community leaders living along the Southwest border.

Galen stresses this is a starting point and a lot of changes will probably be offered and made, he is also waiting to see what the President announces at a speech in Las Vegas on Tuesday.  “Will the White House endorse this approach?  Are they going to introduce a separate piece of legislation? We’ll know better by this time tomorrow.”

AUDIO:Galen talks about the proposal 3:38 mp3

National Milk Producers Federation is one of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC), an alliance formed earlier this month to propose and advocate for labor policies that ensure farm operations have access to a stable and skilled workforce.  Other members include: The American Farm Bureau Federation; American Nursery and Landscape Association; Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association; National Council of Agricultural Employers; National Council of Farmer Cooperatives; USA Farmers; U.S. Apple Association; United Fresh Produce Association; Western Growers Association; and Western United Dairymen.  AWC issued a statement on Monday: “Quite simply, American agriculture as we know it would not be possible without the contributions of more than 1.5 million hired workers each year. As such, the Senate principles reflect a major step in the right direction.”

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