I have not read U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse’s recent Farm Workforce Modernization Act, but as the son of a Mexican “Bracero” who worked the U.S. agricultural fields during World War II in order to feed America while the men were fighting Hitler and Mussolini, I am in full favor of legalizing these hardworking men, women and children who toil under all kinds of weather for meager wages and no recognition.
America owes our people that much, since we as a humble, hardworking people have for eons been mistreated, taken advantage of and sometimes murdered for trying to speak out against racism, union-busting and wage discrimination here in the United States of “Amerikkka.”
Most of the immigrant farmworkers I know of or worked with in Texas, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington were or are of Mexican descent. Thousands of others work the fields throughout America from sea to shining sea in order to feed everyone regardless of language, skin color, race, religion or economic status.
America should legalize farmworkers not just because it needs our hard labor but out of pure decency and gratitude for the aid we have provided in its time of need, including the pandemic.
Jesus Ybarra Rodriguez, Everett
‘Stop illegal immigration’
“Do you agree farmworkers deserve legal protection?” No.
“What else should Congress do about immigration?” Stop illegal immigration.
We are saddling ourselves with troubled, poorly educated people and accelerating divisiveness in our country. Those trying to enter the country legally have to meet various established criteria. It becomes a farce when the majority of people entering this country are entering illegally.
Robert Livingston, Federal Way
His name was Roberto. A recently arrived student, I asked him in my best Spanish how he got to the U.S. He answered with two words: por tren. I naively pictured him sitting in coach taking in sites. “So, what was that like” I asked. He said, “It was OK as long as you remembered to duck when the train went through a tunnel.”
Fast forward 10 years, and as I put Granny Smith apples or Bing cherries in my basket at the local grocery store, I sometimes think about Roberto and other immigrant students I was privileged to teach. Many spent six months in school, the other six months working in the fields. One student, whose enthusiastic classroom participation belied the fact that he slept with his father in an abandoned car at night, is now a motivational speaker for a prominent Seattle organization.
Yet neither of these students is a citizen. Like many others, they try to stay under the radar while contributing mightily to society and hoping that legislation will lead to their becoming citizens. Let’s hope the Farm Workforce Modernization Act passes to provide a path to legal status for these and other deserving immigrants.
Jeanette Corkery, Seattle
‘Immigrants contribute greatly to our society’
I support a complete reform of the U.S. immigration system. The current one is outdated and creates an underclass of people subject to fear of deportation, which sometimes leads to abuses by spouses, landlords or employers.
The available numbers of visas per year should be increased and tied to our population. Employers, particularly in agriculture, need a better system for seasonal workers. Some employers need highly specialized employees. Our health care system needs qualified doctors and other workers. Families need relief — some have waited more than 20 years after a petition has been filed for their relative to be able to immigrate. We need to make recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program eligible for permanent residence.
Immigrants are not perfect, nor should they have to be. Some have been here for more than 30 years, have adult U.S. citizen children and grandchildren, but do not have their permanent residence status or a path to it. I know many DACA recipients who have no memory of any other country and who have been outstanding students, employees, friends, parents and members of our society but have no security here.
Immigrants contribute greatly to our society, economy and culture.
Sylvia A. Miller, Seattle, immigration-law attorney
‘Real need for Congress to get the job done’
The U.S. health care system can benefit greatly through immigration reform. There is a well-known shortage of health care professionals in several occupations, including physicians and nurses. Many rural and semirural communities have inadequate care and are designated by the federal government as “health professional shortage areas.”
Our current immigration “system” makes it far too difficult for foreign medical graduates, nurses and other essential health care workers to obtain visas and permanent residence. The red tape, costs and wait times can be miserable, even when there is a legal path — and oftentimes there is not. Meanwhile, DACA beneficiaries work faithfully in the health care sector during the worst times of the ongoing pandemic.
Immigrants truly get the job done, to paraphrase a line from a song in the musical “Hamilton.” Now there is a real need for Congress to get the job done, especially when it comes to immigrants in the health care field.
W. Scott Railton, Mount Vernon
Reform in three areas
Dreamers need a path to citizenship, first and foremost. They have lived their entire lives in the U.S., and some don’t discover they aren’t citizens until they are adults.
All essential workers need a path to citizenship, not just farmworkers. These are the people who we rely on to do the manual tasks that keep us fed and comfortable.
The H-1B visa program needs to be revised. Currently, a person is linked to a business, and if they complain about working conditions, they are threatened with deportation. H-1B workers should be tied to an industry and have a go-to person in the labor department to lodge complaints.
Jim King, Olympia
Make farmworkers part of immigration reform
Why legalize farmworkers? Quite simply — the immigration system is broken. It has been for as long as most people can remember. The system demonizes those at the bottom. Why? Because they are an easy target.
The farmworkers in the broken system do backbreaking work and are often woefully underpaid. They do not share in protections offered to U.S. workers, such as fair wages, good working conditions and decent housing. Many are forced to work long hours for pay well below the prevailing wage.
Farmworkers who are already here, paying taxes and without crimes deserve to be part of immigration reform when it happens. At the very core, they are an integral part of the food chain that provides nutritious meals to all of us and responds to weather, such as drought, fire or other crises that affect food supply. Without our farmworkers, our entire system would break down and the United States would be forced to immediately institute an emergency program and retrain workers.
Why do that when there are good, hardworking people already in the United States who are contributing to our society in a very positive way?
Michele Carney, Seattle, immigration-law attorney
Farmworkers deserve immediate permanent status and an easier, quicker path — not eight to 18 years — toward citizenship if they desire. Their labor is desperately needed by the farming industry to provide food for many people.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, though touted as a progressive bill, will make the lives of farmworkers worse. The act will increase the use of E-Verify and with it mass deportations. Another thing this bill mandates is the expansion of the H-2A temporary agricultural worker visa program. These will only force farmworkers to endure harsh working conditions without being able to oppose unjust or illegal treatment in order to earn a living. The bill expands the discredited policy of guest-worker programs.
Rather than relying on another bill or the empty promises of elected politicians, what is needed is an open-border policy so that agricultural workers can go where their labor is needed.
Christina Lopez, Seattle