June 26, 2015

Immigration issues important to Nebraska agriculture

Nationally, immigration laws and discussions have been at the forefront of policy talks. And immigration issues are important to agriculture, especially where many farms and ranches are dependent on immigrant workers to help bring in the harvest and help with livestock and milk production. One of many important discussions has been about immigrants having the ability obtain a driver’s license.

In Nebraska last month, the Nebraska Legislature approved LB 623 on a 34 to 9 vote which provides immigrants with deferred action for childhood arrival (DACA) status the opportunity to obtain Nebraska driver’s licenses. The bill was a priority bill to several Nebraska agriculture policy organizations as their policy supports comprehensive immigration reform to ensure a thriving employee base for crop, livestock and milk producers. (The Nebraska Corn Board cannot support or oppose any state legislation, however they can support or oppose federal legislation).

Other states that have state laws on immigrants obtaining a driver’s license include California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

In other immigration news this week, more than 3,000 farm workers seeking temporary immigrant visas are stranded outside the U.S. by a government computer glitch that halted security checks more than a week ago.

Producers in California, the biggest farm state, are losing $500,000 to $1 million a day as harvests slow for crops from berries and melons to cherries, said Tom Nassif, chief executive officer of the Western Growers Association based in Irvine, California.

The backlog of applications from farmworkers has climbed steadily since June 9, when the U.S. stopped granting H-2A guest-worker program visas.

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