Got Labor? Guest Worker Program to be Part of GOP Immigration Re - KMPH FOX 26 | Central San Joaquin Valley News Source

Got Labor? Guest Worker Program to be Part of GOP Immigration Reform Pitch

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House Republicans are expected to unveil their version of Immigration Reform by Wednesday, and one component of the bill package could have a major effect on the Central Valley.

That's because it would create guest worker program for the Agriculture sector.

Manuel Cunha with the Nisei Farmer's League calls it a game-changer for the Central Valley's future.

"We see that as our salvation of labor," says Cunha, who represents 1,100 farmers and supporters of Agriculture.  He is in Washington, D.C. to help shape the proposed program.

Experts like Cunha say that tighter borders and competition from other industries-- including construction-- has meant fewer people are available to pick fruit.

They say now is the time, for Congress to act.

The proposed program would be run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and not the Department of Labor, which oversees the current guestworker program.

The program would also have the approval of the Department of Homeland Security.

Workers would be in the United States from ten to 36 months, and they would not be limited to working in the fields.

"We're coordinating an alliance, so we bring labor here and move them to different growers, processors, packinghouses or dairies," says Cunha.

The workers would be brought legally from Central America, including Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

The farmers would be responsible for the workers' housing and transportation—meaning the labor, could cost more in the end.

"That labor costs a lot more money than the labor here," says Cunha. "Rather than your wage be nine dollars, it's 13 dollars."

But Cunha says it's money well-spent if it means that those who run farms will get to keep them—and those who depend on agriculture for their jobs, will get to keep theirs, too.

 

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