Farmworker Justice

My hometown in rural Arkansas is on the cusp of humanity. Ridden with mom-and-pop shops and containing a gas station, a school, and a Sonic, it has everything you might expect to find in small town USA. There was also a large agricultural institution. A majority of those employed at this institution were Hispanics, and most of those Hispanics were undocumented immigrants. This institution was fined for lack of documentation of its workers’ citizenship and forced to lay off most of its staff. The long-time owner and prominent community figure had to sell out. 

This January, Dianne Feinstein and Zoe Lofgren introduced the Agricultural Worker Program Act of 2019. Under this act, undocumented immigrants working on farms could apply for “Blue Card” status after having worked in agriculture for at least 100 days in the past two years, allowing them to continue residing in the United States worry free. Earning and maintaining “Blue Card” status could lead these members of society on a path to citizenship. 

The passage of this bill could prove beneficial to many rural southern communities. Farm owners constantly seek consistent workers, but there is a limited number to be found. The passage of this bill would reward hardworking members of society who have already filled these positions on farms and would ensure a steady workforce in the future. It could also serve as a gateway to broaden the niche of immigrants in the United States. In a political culture where the loudest voices regarding immigration are often unkind, the passage of this bill could aid in building an immigrant population so bountiful that their work and community would speak volumes above the hateful comments of executive powers. 

One of my high school peers, a Dreamer and honors graduate, got a job working on a chicken farm at age 16. With the instability of his DACA status, he sought a backup plan in getting a work visa. The passage of this bill could immensely simplify his path to citizenship. Though an intelligent, high achieving student should not have to rely on his employment on a farm to attain citizenship, if that is what leads contributing members of society to permanent legal residence in the United States, so be it. 

Those who would benefit from the passage of the Agricultural Worker Program Act are not the job-stealing heathens that the president would like you to believe that they are. They are our peers and coworkers, neighbors and best friends. They are our community. The American Dream is not dead. It is alive and well in the shining eyes of immigrants. The passage of this bill would give a new wave of hope to immigrants who had lost all hope of citizenship. It would make strides towards correcting the immigrant image that has so detrimentally surfaced. We need this bill. America needs this bill. Immigration is so quintessentially American that America would not be America without it. Let’s take a note from Langston Hughes, and “Let America Be America Again.”

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