Saturday, April 24, 2010

UFW: Polarizing anti-immigrant bill targets Latinos and farm workers

Enacting legislation to put local police officers on the front lines of America's failed immigration policies is both unfair and unfortunate. How can untrained police officers apply a fair standard by arresting people on the basis of a suspicion they are in the United States illegally, usually on the basis of the color of their skin or the language they speak?

Will an undocumented immigrant from Ireland be accosted? Probably not. Will Latino fathers bringing their sons to Little League baseball camp be targeted? Perhaps. Will the thousands of farm workers who harvest our food be automatic suspects? Certainly.

Would Cesar Chavez's be a suspect in the state of his birth and where his grandfather homesteaded a small family farm in the North Gila River Valley near Yuma? You bet. This bill not only singles out Latinos, but it specifically discriminates against those with dark complexion and humble attire.

The United Farm Workers and the agricultural industry negotiated the most bipartisan broadly supported immigration reform measure in the United States Congress: the AgJobs bill letting undocumented farm workers earn the right to permanently stay in this country by continuing to work in agriculture. It may become a model for a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Bringing people together is never easy. Bridging emotional and racial divisions is even more difficult. Polarizing people makes it impossible.

Arizona produces much of the nation's winter vegetables. We invite the governor and Legislature to work with us and the growers in Arizona and across the country to make AgJobs a model for immigration reform, one that respects the laws of our country and the labor of those who feed us.

Today somewhere between one-half and three-quarters of the U.S. farm labor workforce is undocumented. Agricultural employment is often the entry point for new migrants to this country.

We need to end the fear and help improve the lives of the immigrant farm workers whose sweat and sacrifice bring the rich bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables to our tables. They do the hardest, most difficult jobs other American workers won't do. They pay taxes but enjoy few, if any, benefits while performing some of the most important work in our nation-feeding America and much of the world.

The Arizona anti-immigrant bill is not the answer. The answer comes from AgJobs and comprehensive immigration reform.

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