Washington, D.C.—Today, UFW Foundation Chief Executive Officer Diana Tellefson Torres testified at the U.S. Senate Judiciary Hearing “From Farm to Table: Immigrant Workers Get the Job Done” on Immigrant Workers, Agriculture and the Need for Immigration Reform. Six farm worker leaders from Michigan and Georgia accompanied Tellefson Torres to the nation’s capital. During the testimony, UFW Foundation CEO urged Congress to provide undocumented farm workers a path towards legalization, stressed the need to reform the H-2A Agricultural Guest Worker Program to address recruitment and labor violations, wage theft, and pushed on improving labor conditions for all farm workers, both H-2A and domestic workers. Additionally, Tellefson Torres reiterated farm workers' contribution during the pandemic and affirmed that farm workers helped Americans by doing the hard work to keep food on the tables during incredibly difficult times such as the COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires and floods.
“Today, the United States has a choice,” said Tellefson Torres. “We can recognize the incredible value of farm workers and work towards a day when the industry is characterized by workers who work and live without fear because they have a way to earn citizenship, and enjoy equal labor rights. This choice will enable farm workers to stay in agriculture and help the industry and our rural communities thrive. This entire vision starts with legalization of the undocumented workers here in the U.S. today. Congress not passing bipartisan agricultural immigration reform that honors the women and men who feed us is an active choice to support a deeply flawed system, harming both workers and law-abiding employers. We have come to an agreement with most of the nation’s major grower associations to move forward bipartisan agricultural immigration bills that have won majority votes in the House or Senate during the administrations of Presidents Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden. We have come so frustratingly close in passing agricultural immigration bills. We remain ready to partner again.”
“I have worked in agriculture for 23 years,” said Michigan farm worker Elia. “I have worked harvesting apple, peach, cherry and blueberry. Lately I've been working in pine tree nurseries. I have experienced all kinds of difficulties like working in very high temperatures and also very cold ones. Also, sometimes it rains and we get sick but we have to work because otherwise how would we pay the bills and support our family? Field work is the worst paid and yet the hardest. I have been exposed to dehydration from working in high temperatures and unfortunately, we do not have health insurance so what we earn is used to pay for the hospital and it is a very expensive bill. Also, where I have worked for many years they have already begun to lay us off. In my work they have already started to bring in hired, H2A workers and they have replaced us.”
The latest federal government data shows that the food supply in the country relies on approximately 2.4 million farm workers, 1.2 million of whom are either citizens or legal permanent residents and roughly 49 percent of whom are undocumented.
The UFW Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, advocates for labor rights and protections for farm workers across the U.S. and provides educational outreach and critical services such as immigration legal services to low-income rural California communities. For more information, visit ufwfoundation.org
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