Farmers, worker advocates urge immigration reform

04/28/2014 7:19 PM

04/28/2014 7:21 PM

Farm leaders joined Monday with advocates for foreign-born workers in Modesto to urge immigration reform.

They called on Congress to pass legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for people who have entered the United States illegally, while easing the process for bringing in temporary workers.

“California growers are faced with labor shortages that reduce productivity and threaten the existence of family farms because federal immigration laws fail to provide an adequate number of legal workers,” said Sasha Farkas, an apple and timber producer in Tuolumne County and board member with the California Farm Bureau Federation.

This group and Congregations Building Community, which works on behalf of the mostly Latino immigrants in Stanislaus County, took part in a news conference at the DoubleTree Hotel. It was hosted by FWD.us, a national group working on the cause.

Speakers praised Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, for supporting the reforms, which many Republicans have resisted.

“I am proud to know that my congressman understands we have to do the hard rights over the easy wrongs in this country,” said Estefania Hermosillo, a Modesto Junior College student and community organizer with Congregations Building Community. “However, more work needs to be done, and I hope Congressman Denham will continue to pressure his colleagues in Congress to do the right thing and pass real comprehensive reform.”

Hermosillo, whose family moved from Mexico when she was 6, was among the people who spoke last April in packed St. Stanislaus Catholic Church about the hardships of not being documented. That event was attended by Denham and Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

Also speaking on Congregations Building Community’s behalf Monday was Adriana Garcia, who works as a restorative justice coordinator for the Diocese of Stockton.

Supporters say the reforms could provide security, and eventually citizenship, for the hardworking people who make up the vast majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants. The measure also would tighten border security and improve the process, now largely unused, by which farmers and other employers verify their workers’ status.

“Congress must rectify this threat to the California economy, which anchors our nation’s food supply, by passing comprehensive immigration reform legislation,” Farkas said.

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