Hispanic Caucus demands protections for agricultural workers in next coronavirus bill
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) called on legislative leaders Wednesday to include salary, social safety net and immigration protections for farmworkers in any future coronavirus relief packages.
In a letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), CHC members said “it has never been more important to ensure the well-being of our agricultural producers and workforce.”
“Future legislation in response to the coronavirus pandemic must include protections for these vital members of our communities,” wrote California Democratic Reps. Jim Costa and Salud Carbajal, who led the letter and were joined by the other 34 House CHC members.
The lawmakers proposed that agricultural workers receive legal protections from deportation, as many of said workers are either undocumented or in the country on temporary guest worker visas.
To that end, they touted a bipartisan agricultural workforce bill, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act — passed by the House in December and yet to be brought up in the Senate — but said temporary emergency protections would be necessary until the bill’s passage.
Costa and Carbajal also demanded that future legislation direct financial assistance toward agricultural workers, many of whom are not eligible to receive stimulus checks included in the most recent coronavirus package.
They added that agricultural workers should receive pandemic premium pay, sick pay and family leave.
The Trump administration is reportedly considering a plan to reduce farmworker salaries to help the agricultural industry sustain itself through the coronavirus lockdown.
Meanwhile, the CHC members demanded statutory implementation of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations at agricultural worksites, including on housing and transportation, and access to federal social programs for farmworkers.
“Farmworkers need our support. They should not live in fear,” wrote Costa and Carbajal.
“As this crisis evolves and Congress continues to explore response packages, we stand ready to work with you to ensure these protections are made available. Hardworking farmworkers deserve and require our action. Their wellbeing and the stabilization of our food supply depend on these actions,” they added.
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