Feinstein to ICE: Stop targeting farm workers

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinEverything you need to know about the National Guard's bonus controversy Lawmakers praise bonus-clawback suspension, pledge permanent fix Defense chief pledges to 'resolve' bonus clawback issue MORE is calling on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to halt enforcement actions against illegal farm workers and their employers, saying continued prosecutions could cripple the agriculture sector. 

In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Feinstein (D-Calif.) noted that ICE had already stopped deporting certain illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.

“I respectfully suggest that you adopt a similar policy of exercising prosecutorial discretion to defer enforcement against agricultural employers and workers, and concentrate instead on removing those who would and have harmed our society, rather than those who contribute to our vital agricultural economy and heritage, and the safe and high-quality food supply that benefits all Americans,” Feinstein wrote.

Feinstein, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, first complained of the impact of worksite audits targeting agricultural workers more than a year ago.

She said the enforcement is hurting the economy in California — home to roughly 81,000 farms —and beyond at a time when the industry faces an acute worker shortage.

“Farmers from all across the United States have expressed the severe harm they have been suffering from the lack of willing and available domestic agricultural employees,” she wrote.

Feinstein, along with Sens. Marco RubioMarco RubioFive takeaways from New Hampshire Senate debate Obama plans 'aggressive' blitz for Clinton in campaign's final days One way or another, 2016 was all about Donald Trump's hands MORE (R-Fla.), Michael BennetMichael BennetCruz: Precedent exists for keeping Supreme Court short-staffed Senate poll raises Republican hopes in Pennsylvania, Florida Podesta floated Bill Gates, Bloomberg as possible Clinton VPs MORE (D-Colo.) and Orrin HatchOrrin HatchOvernight Healthcare: How GOP could help fix ObamaCare | Cures bill in jeopardy | Senators unveil Medicare reforms Senators unveil bipartisan Medicare reforms The holy grail of tax policy MORE (R-Utah), crafted the agricultural worker component of the sweeping immigration reform bill that passed the Senate in June.

The House has yet to act on the legislation.