U.S. citizens to replace immigrant farm workers
WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the majority of U.S. farm workers undocumented, the United Farm Workers is launching a national campaign challenging U.S. citizens and legal residents to replace immigrant field laborers. To survive, the agricultural industry would need at least half a million citizens or legal residents, UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez announced. He was joined in kicking off the “Take Our Jobs” campaign by Rob Williams, director of the Migrant Farmworker Justice Project, and Kern County Supervisor Michael Rubio during a telephonic news conference today.
Organizers of the campaign plan to take it to Members of Congress and the general public through a national broadcast appearance on the Colbert Show set for July 8 in an effort to generate public interest in the plan. The effort spotlights the immigrant labor issue and underscores the need for reforms without which the domestic agricultural industry could be crippled, leading to more jobs moving off shore.
“The farm worker population of the United States is overwhelmingly immigrant with about 85 percent of them born outside of the United States. Today, the vast majority of farm workers are unauthorized,” Williams said.
County Supervisor Rubio, who represents the second largest agricultural county in the nation, said the industry is utterly dependant on a foreign-born workforce. And even with double digit unemployment rates, few legal residents are seeking jobs on the farm, he said. Rodriguez said the deplorable status quo is hurting growers, farm workers and consumers.
"We support farm workers regardless of their legal status or nationality,” Rodriguez said. “Farm workers do the work that most Americans are not willing to do. Our current labor force is comprised of professional farm workers who possess essential skills needed to maintain the viability of the agricultural industry. But our nation’s struggling economy has fueled an increasingly ugly debate on immigration policy and many Americans believe that undocumented farm workers are taking jobs from our citizens and legal residents.
“Either Congress acts to bring a solution, or we will continue to see our food production move to other countries. The United States depends on these farms and farm workers for food,” the UFW president added.
The UFW has negotiated the AgJOBS bill with the agricultural industry that would give undocumented farm workers presently here the right to earn legal status by continuing to work in agriculture. Senators Feinstein (D-CA) and Lugar (R-IN) are the principal co-authors in the Senate and Congressman Adam Putnam (R-FL) and Howard Berman (D-CA) in the House.
Visit the campaign website at: www.takeourjobs.org
Audio of news conference at: http://www.ufw.org/_board.php?mode=view&b_code=res_multi&b_no=7194