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A “Blue Card” can provide protection for farm workers

Emily Cornell, an MPH student in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, authored an opinion article for Food Tank about a new immigration status for undocumented farm workers.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

In early 2019, Senator Feinstein (D-CA) introduced S. 175, the Agricultural Worker Program Act of 2019, which would introduce a new “Blue Card” immigration status for undocumented farm workers. Blue Card status would mean protection from deportation, and a path to lawful permanent resident status within three to five years.

Of the 3 million people who make up the agricultural workforce in the United States, 50 to 70 percent are estimated to be undocumented immigrants. The bill proposes that undocumented immigrants who have been working on U.S. farms could apply for a Blue Card, which would protect them from deportation, and allow travel in and out of the country. After three to five years, depending on qualifying work hours, individuals with Blue Card status would become eligible to apply for adjustment to legal status, and ultimately the ability to apply for citizenship.

Production of healthy food in the U.S. relies on this undocumented workforce. The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates that without undocumented immigrants, food—particularly fruits and vegetables—would skyrocket in price. In an analysis on the farm sector’s sensitivity to immigration reform, the federation estimates that the strict immigration policies that we are seeing under the current administration could lead to a five to six percent increase in the price of fruits and vegetables, making fresh produce inaccessible to the average American citizen.

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