US Farmers Keep Eye on Immigration Reform

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05 August, 2013

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From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report.

Farmers in the United States are experiencing a shortage of people to work their fields. The workers they do have are mostly from Latin America but enter the country with false documents. Farmers say that without immigration reform, both problems will continue.

Imperial Valley is an agricultural area near the border of the western state of California and Mexico. Temperatures there are always above 38 degrees Celsius in the summer month, as a result, not much grows in the Imperial Valley at this time of year, but in the winter the fields are filled with lettuce and celery. And in the spring, farmers grow foods like cantaloupes and watermelons.

US Farmers Keep Eye on Immigration Reform

There is work to do in the fields in the summer, Francisco Saucedo uses farm equipment to prepare the land for planting in the autumn. He lives in Mexico and wakes up in the middle of the night everyday, so he can avoid long lines at the border crossing.

Mr Saucedo says that if he did this kind of work in Mixico, he would earn about $6 a day. But in the United States, he makes as much as $90 a day.

Farmer Larry Cox says growing and harvesting vegetables depends on immigrants or day laborers from Mexico, but he says not enough migrants are crossing the border.

"We have had a chronic shortage of help almost for the last 10 years."

Larry Cox says it has been difficult getting visas to work in the United States, as a result, many farm workers from Latin America carry fake documents.

Western Growers President Tom Nassif says there are about 11 million workers in the United States with false documents, over 1 million of them work in agriculture.

Mr Nassif has been working with American lawmakers on immigration reform. He supports of bill to legalize the workers who are already in the United States. The bill will provide a way for the workers to become American citizens in the future. The Senate has approved the measure.

The United Farm Workers Foundation represents the farm workers. It supports the Senate bill. The group's Erica Lomeli says immigration reform will improve the working conditions of many migrants.

"So they will have a right to stand up for themselves and not be intimidated or in many states be put in slave-like positions."

American Jack Vessey owns a farm. he says without immigration reform, the labor shortage on farms will continue, as a result, he says, Americans might have to pay more for fruits and vegetables.

And that's the Agriculture Report from VOA Learning English, I'm Bob Doughty.