How Will President Trump’s Immigration Plan Affect California Farm Labor?

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — There is concern among Republicans and Democrats that President Donald Trump’s immigration plan will cut into California’s shrinking supply of low skilled farm labor.

But one UC Davis professor who specializes in immigration says it won’t.

Trump’s new immigration plan will cut the number of legal immigrants, in half over the next 10 years. Granting legal residency, or green cards by giving priority to high-skilled, English-speaking immigrants.

“First preference is outstanding Albert Einsteins, second preference is professors and researchers,” said Philip Martin.

So where does that leave the last preference? Unskilled workers or illegal immigrants who make up about 60% of California’s farm workers.

UC Davis Agriculture Professor Philip Martin says, in the same place they’re in now. Untouched.

“Of the 140,000 visas available right now, only 10,000 available to low-skilled immigrants typically those without a high-school education,” he said.

Martin who consulted the White House on immigration under the Jimmy Carter administration, says, contrary to what critics believe, promoting high skilled workers won’t hurt low skilled immigrants.

“Almost no farmer sponsors his or her farm workers for immigrant visas,” he said.

Martin says the bill doesn’t target the guest worker program, which brings in temporary workers.

But farmers say they need year-round workers and worry the bill would have implications for illegal immigrants who may try to qualify for permanent residency, worsening an already severe farm worker shortage.

“If we’re going to grow our farm to fork economy we need the workforce for that,” said Trish Kelly of Valley Vision.

Trish Kelly manages workforce development programs in food and ag. She says the solution isn’t necessarily immigration reform. It’s skilled farm labor.

“We work very closely with our workforce boards, and community colleges is we’re trying to create a pathway for people to gain skills.

Seeking skillful farm workers, as Trump promotes skilled immigration.

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