The California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) recently announced their Top Issues for 2019. Members were surveyed in December 2018 and ranked the top issues for CFFA to concentrate on in 2019.
President of the California Fresh Fruit Association, George Radanovich, stated “As in years past, our membership has given us strong direction in identifying their top priorities for 2019. The issues of labor, water, and food safety, will lead our list of issues. CFFA will continue to serve as the primary liaison between regulatory and legislative authorities by acting as the unified voice for our members on these and many other issues.”
Here are the results:
1) Federal Immigration Policies Addressing Current and Future Labor Force
In this last round of elections, Democrats ignored the ugly and nationalistic demagoguery of immigrants from Central America that the 45th President pursued relentlessly before Election Day. They allowed the President to continue building a false narrative around immigration. In spite of many Republicans supporting some of the most offensive and verbal racial profiling by a sitting President, our Democratic response was, “vote for me, I am not Republican.”
This President was not only focused on mid-term elections but laying the foundation for his 2020 re-election. He spared no lie to whip up his base.
We heard no substance from Democrats except outrage and sharp criticism of Republicans. Liberal groups like the Center for American Progress and the Third Way noted that running on immigration would not be helpful in securing votes in states and Congressional districts won by the President in 2016. Democrats seemed paralyzed with political fear that they could not capitalize on the anger and growing rejection of Trumpism if they addressed the immigration issue.
Democrats aggressively postured when Republicans followed their script of scapegoating and demagoguing immigrants. They hid behind their words of outrage, old proposals about legalizing Dreamers and no border wall and “abolishing” ICE. They offered no new vision for re-calibrating the policies and discussions that were needed to effectively and honestly deal with the pressures of desperate mass movements of people.
Democrats allowed this President to continue reinforcing a false, ignorant, and racist nationalism about Latino immigrants. The so-called “caravan of invaders” is being “pushed” from sending countries for the same reasons that pushed the ships that sailed with many European refugees/migrants that arrived on U.S. shores in the 1800s and early 1900s.
Latino “leaders” in the national immigration struggle and Latino elected officials in Congress have contributed mightily to the behavior of both parties. It really makes more sense if these Latino “leaders” would stop demanding specific action that has not come about even under President Obama. We must offer viable and balanced policies. The mass movement of people is originating in this hemisphere, and so it MUST fall to us to develop solutions, not ideology.
Due to the inaction of both parties, our community must develop the political agenda for immigration reform that will benefit our nation. Our vision must be specific and comprehensive. The narrative must be honest, factual, balanced and practical and we must begin working with various members of the California Congressional delegation from agricultural producing districts, such as ours. The Trump narrative does nothing more than to pollute the disposition of the U.S. public to push for effective and balanced immigration reform.
There is public support for reasonable reform; the Trump narrative has created a caustic image of immigrants that has become the default position of his base, which is infecting others. The time to act is now. We must realistically address the labor shortages in the agricultural and service industries in California and their dependency on unauthorized labor. We have to frame the issue in economic terms since humanitarian concerns clearly have not been enough.
Our policy outline must offer a constructive and practical new vision. It must include smart enforcement at ports of entry, increased resources for the Coast Guard, increased resources for detection of opioid trafficking from China and India via the internet, and increased resources for local law enforcement in cities located along drug corridors in the U.S. only for enforcement activities related to drug interdiction. Our immigration reform package must include enforcement of existing immigration laws. The GOP narrative is that Democrats are for open borders. Our new agenda must address the issue that drugs from Mexico significantly enter through ports of entry and via the internet from countries outside the hemisphere.
Our agenda must utilize evaluation analyses and propose no private sector detention centers—a vigorous oversight—and accountability mechanism outside of the Department of Homeland Security of these centers and ICE, Border Patrol agents, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.
Enforcement must be balanced with permanent legal status for all “Dreamers” who meet the original criteria, temporary legal status for the parents of “Dreamers” who have a history of employment, especially in states that had labor shortages in agriculture, construction, and service sectors. We have to include a pilot temporary worker program with Mexico in U.S. states that have documented labor shortages in the above industries to begin to test new ideas. All federal and state labor laws would apply to these workers along with an increase in funding to monitor their treatment, working and living conditions, and employer compliance.
A critical component that we must explore is the creation of working groups between the U.S. and essential sending countries such as Mexico and those in Central America to discuss how to create a stable economic and security environment in their countries and specific regions that are the source of population movements to the U.S. We must not repeat the mistakes our economic and political policies have committed in these countries that are the foundation of the “push” factors, while not losing sight of the “pull” factors that exist within the U.S. serving as magnets for undocumented workers.
Lastly, we must evaluate and provide for a phased-in mechanism of these policy initiatives and include a legalization process, for the undocumented persons currently in the U.S., in the last phase of this process.
We know that Congressman Panetta and his colleagues from the Central Valley have acknowledged the ugly narrative but have taken no decisive action to date. It is important to note that two of his colleagues lost re-election. Was their loss due in part to the failure to move concretely on immigration, especially in the agricultural sector? It is essential that there be transparency around what Mr. Panetta and the Democrat majority in the House of Representatives will do to begin resolving the growing complexities around immigration. Let’s begin our discussion with a town hall meeting to take place in Salinas that allows an open dialogue concerning our proposal and what our new Congress intends to do.
Arnoldo S. Torres is a journalist, consultant, partner in the Sacramento, California based public policy consulting firm Torres & Torres, and the executive director for the California Hispanic Health Care Association.
Mexico Has a Responsibility Regarding Immigration, Expert Says
By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor
With immigration becoming a hot-button issue within the political arena, those in agriculture have a deeper insight into this controversial topic. Arnoldo Torres, of the National Institute for Latino Policies out of Sacramento and partner with the public policy consulting firm Torres & Torres, has long been a leading voice for immigration within the ag sector—while realizing both countries (America and Mexico) need to do their part.
“Mexico has a responsibility to its people. The Central American countries have a responsibility. We’ve got to make sure that those countries are doing what they have to do to keep people from having to go elsewhere to make a living and to live,” Torres explained.
He knows this from personal experience, when his grandfather made a move to America from Mexico, with no opportunity to go back.
“They realized that if they had gone back, there was never going to be a life for them back home,” he said.
Torres further added that the desire for immigrant workers purely correlates with their unique work ethic.
“There’s that saying that necessity is the mother of invention. Well, necessity is the mother of work. I mean, we work to address a necessity.”
Congressional Failure on Agriculture Requires Deliberate and Decisive Democracy
By Arnoldo Torres
Farmworkers in California agriculture have always been hard working and very productive. This has been the history of the Mexican farmworker since World War I and II, when they were brought in to compensate for the labor shortage. Regardless of immigration status, this undocumented workforce has contributed mightily (and beyond any dispute) to the phenomenal production and riches California agriculture has come to be known for throughout the world.
Manuel Cunha, Jr., the President of the Nisei Farmers League expressed, with eloquence, this reality of “our agricultural workers” in his letter to California Agriculture Today on December 15, 2017. He points out how these workers pay taxes, (state, federal income and sales), into the social security fund and serve as the “backbone” of the state’s $50 billion-dollar agriculture industry. He is also on target when he speaks of how Congress has failed agricultural workers not only in our state but throughout the nation.
Mr. Cunha’s should be joined by all in the agricultural industry of California. While we see signs throughout the Central Valley clamoring for more water and criticizing Governor Brown for his policy on water, we do not see any signs calling for immigration reform that recognize s the contributions of farmworkers. The agricultural industry needs to stand up and state the obvious — without water AND a qualified workforce, agriculture will crumble.
The failure of Congress on agricultural workers has been a constant for many decades now. This failure has already had serious and structural repercussions for California ag. Republicans and Democrats in Congress who represent the Valley – who are either married to Latinas, own dairies, are part of “chain migration” of Portuguese families operating businesses dependent on Mexican farm workers, who have several Mexicans as their “best friends,” represent districts with high concentration of Latinos, etc. – have been irresponsible.
The Majority Leader of the US House is from the Central Valley and others from this region are key members of the majority party. How is it that they have not been able to move any legislation on this MOST important issue? I firmly believe they have been reluctant to do what is necessary to move the needle forward on this issue.
These politicians have all made their convenient and annual statements of respecting the work ethic of farm workers and their economic contributions. All have spoken about the urgency and importance of resolving the status of DACA individuals but have not even made the serious and concrete attempt to include their parents and the adults who have been harvesting their businesses for decades and generations.
Democracy works best when the people take decisive and deliberate action. It is time that voters of the central valley take deliberate and decisive action and replace these incumbents regardless of party. Until they are held accountable in this manner farm workers, the ag economy and real people will suffer consequences that will not be able to be corrected anytime soon.
Arnoldo S. Torres of Torres2 Policy Consultants works on policy issues impacting the Latino community and has worked on the immigration issue for more than 30 years having testified on the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1985 extensively before both chambers of Congress.
Disconnect Exists with Urban Politicians, Ruben Navarrette says
By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor
Ruben Navarrette grew up in the Central Valley and is a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. California Ag Today caught up with him recently at an event in Fresno called the The Latino Paradox: Immigration Forum. He spoke about the RAISE Act S.354, which severely limits immigration into the U.S. because it would be based on education and skills.
“There’s this disconnect in Washington and New York … mostly urban areas where politicians don’t think much about agriculture, agribusiness,” Navarrette said. “They have no clue about where this fruit is coming from when they walk down the street in New York and they see an orange. They don’t understand how dangerous something like the RAISE Act would be if you ultimately limit the amount of people who come here based on education and skills.”
The RAISE Act will limit immigration from Latin American countries. Meanwhile, U.S.-born citizens don’t go out to work in the fields.
“I think there’s a lot of people who wrongly believe that American workers will do those jobs if the wages are high enough, and the way they tell the story [is] to make the agribusiness and the farmers into the bad guy,” Navarrette said. “If you know enough farmers and you go out into enough fields and you interview enough farmers and enough workers, you know that’s completely false. Farmers could be in business for 30 years and never in 30 years have they ever had an American come to them and say, ‘Can I pick peaches?’ ”
With the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act (DACA), if dreamers are sent back, there are questions about what may happen with their parents.
“If they go back, the parents may ultimately self-deport as well and that’s going to be disruptive,” Navarrette said. “Clearly it’s a mistake for us to believe that sort of agriculture and DACA, they’re all separate from each other. The issues are all intertwined. When a farm worker is working in a field, he cares about whether the local police have the authority to detain him, if he’s pulled over. He cares because he has kids who are in the DACA Program, so farming isn’t necessarily segregated. The farm workers are piped into all these different issues.”
Manuel Cunha Jr. Fires Off Letter RE: Supreme Court Ruling on Immigration
The following is a letter that Manuel Cunha, president of the Nisei Farmers League sent out about the Supreme Court ruling on immigration TODAY:
“As the president of the Nisei Farmers League, board member of the National Immigration Forum in Washington, D.C., chair of the Insure America Project, and as a farmer myself, I am deeply disappointed in the Supreme Court ruling that was announced TODAY. Their ruling provided no guidance nor direction to this Congress and ignored the safety of those affected by the ruling.
The 4-4 deadlock leaves in place an appeals court ruling blocking President Obama’s immigration plan. His plan would have allowed parents of citizens or of lawful permanent residents to apply for a program that would spare them from deportation and provide them with work permits.
Dignity, integrity and justice is what this country believes in and has made this country great. This country was built and strengthened by immigrants. Many of us today realize it was our parents and ancestors from other countries that brought us here. However, there are those that have forgotten, many of which are currently members of Congress.
This decision does not move us closer to immigration reform, but allows Congress to repeatedly refuse to support bipartisan legislation to update immigration laws. Congress continues to not deal with Immigration, but rather deal with their own party politics.
Millions of families will remain in limbo, and our system remains broken. The attention now turns to Senate and House Republicans to provide leadership on this issue. What is their solution to our broken immigration system? This escalates many of the problems that currently exist. Drug and human trafficking will continue, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids will not go away. Millions of immigrants living in the shadows is not the answer. Deportation of the people that clothe and feed us is shameful and not the answer.
We must remember that the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” DACA (Dreamers), is untouched. We need to focus on providing alternatives to the children who were brought here and have grown up here as Americans and identify themselves as Americans. The DACA program is still in play and we need to encourage those that are eligible to apply.”