Woman working in the fields Photo Credit U.S. Department of Agriculture

Integrating Undocumented Farm Workers

New effort under way

Eleven organizations are planning for the integration of more than one million farm workers and their families once the federal government enacts a pathway to citizenship.

San Francisco, December 7 - Eleven organizations, led by United Farm Workers’ Foundation and Farmworker Justice, are launching new efforts to plan for the integration of more than one million farm workers and their families once the federal government enacts a pathway to legalization.

“We know that our country’s legal immigration process can be extremely complex and intimidating for most immigrants,” said Diana Tellefson, executive director of the United Farm Workers Foundation. “We must begin acting now to ensure a transformative process for farm worker families throughout the country once Congress addresses this glaring need for reform. We thank the Rosenberg Foundation for championing this collaborative project and all the funders who stepped up to meet the need for this vital project.”

Undocumented workers comprise a majority of the agricultural workforce in the U.S. Nearly 60 percent of the nation’s more than one million farm workers are concentrated in just five states—California, Texas, Florida, Oregon and Washington—with 42 percent (approximately 600,000 people) concentrated in California.

The coalition of 11 organizations—which also includes the California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), CRLA Foundation, Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), National Farm Worker Ministry, La Union Del Pueblo Entero (Texas), Florida Legal Services, National Farm Worker Service Center, and Willamette Valley Law Project, fiscal sponsor for Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN)—is preparing for the implementation of major federal legislation that would provide a pathway for farm workers and their immediate family members to earn legal immigration status.

“This creative collaboration between farm worker, immigration and legal advocacy organizations will help empower the people who harvest our fruits and vegetables to build better lives for themselves and their families by participating in the civic life of this nation of immigrants,” said Bruce Goldstein, executive director of Farmworker Justice.

The Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act ("AgJOBS"), currently pending in Congress, represents a unique cooperative effort between the United Farm Workers union and major agricultural employers to address the agricultural immigration crisis by creating a legal, stable labor source and ensuring that farm workers are treated fairly.

The initial planning effort is supported by grants from six foundations, including $100,000 from the Rosenberg Foundation; $200,000 from the California Endowment; $50,000 from the Haas, Jr. Fund; $15,000 from Sierra Health Foundation; $10,000 from the Western Union Foundation; and $5,000 from the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program.

“The Rosenberg Foundation applauds this important collaboration of advocates and funders to support the basic rights of the workers who put food on our tables across the nation,” said Timothy Silard, president of the Rosenberg Foundation. “This effort will build the capacity needed to ensure the full civic and economic integration of hundreds of thousands of farm worker families once the federal government addresses this critical issue.”

The coalition was organized to prepare strategies to meet the need in California, where the majority of farm workers are located, and is also spearheading planning efforts in other states with large farm worker populations. The effort includes developing the business model, legal service delivery systems, training, and communications plans that will lead to an efficient and swift implementation of a farm worker legalization program once reform is enacted.