Feinstein to Introduce Guest Worker Program

California Senator has been working for more than a decade seeking legislative solution to ag labor problems.

Published on: Oct 11, 2011

Word on Capitol Hill is that Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. will introduce her latest version of a guest worker program dubbed "AgJobs". It will not involve U.S. citizenship.  For the past decade, some lawmakers have proposed an AgJobs program to grant legal residency to more than one million foreign-born farm workers and family members. Feinstein called her new version an "emergency" measure that would last for five years.

Feinstein says her frustration is a little high at the moment and that while Congress fiddles and sits here, American agriculture goes offshore. Reinforcing her point, Feinstein circulated a 78-page booklet that promotes AgJobs and details the travails of Turlock, California dairy farmer Ray Souza, and Tifton, Georgia vegetable farmer Bill Brim and others around the country who say they need a more stable workforce.

Feinstein has been working for nearly a decade to craft a legislative solution to America's worsening farm labor shortage.

"During that period of time what I've seen is the outsourcing of American agriculture to other countries," Feinstein said. "What I've seen is a diminution in the amount of value of the American agricultural crop."

Feinstein announced at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing she’ll introduce emergency legislation this week that would create a five-year agricultural guest worker program.

"There will be no amnesty and no citizenship," Feinstein said. "But what it will provide is a blue card to an agricultural worker who has met certain criteria, to be able to remain in the country with his family, provided that individual works agriculture a certain number of days a year."

It’s estimated that approximately two-thirds of the 1.8 million hired to perform farm work in the U.S. are not authorized to be here. Feinstein said the blue card would be loaded with biometric data identifying a migrant worker and be preferable to House legislation requiring employers to use an online verification program to check the immigration status of potential hires.