Another Agricultural State Heard from About Stalled Imm igration Reform Hurting Business

Law Firm Newswire



Miami, FL (Law Firm Newswire) April 24, 2015 – Immigration reform is not just about securing borders or allowing more visas for highly skilled workers or reducing deportations. It affects the nation many sectors of the economy, including the gricultural sector.

“People forget that agriculture also involves cows and other farm animals and not just seasonal workers picking crops,” says Larry Rifkin, a well-respected Miami immigration attorney and managing partner for Rifkin & Fox-Isicoff, PA. “For some time now, since the rift between political parties has adversely affected immigration reform, dairy farmers have been unable to find enough workers to milk the cows and care for them.”

Consider the story of Colorado’s La Luna Dairy, home to 1,500 cows that need to be milked daily – or 200 cows per hour. Without full staff on board it is a serious struggle to keep up with the milking. Most of the workers hail from Central America or Mexico. In fact, Mexican-born dairy workers make up about 85 percent of the industry, says Colorado State University dairy specialist, Noa Roman-Muniz.

Farmers rarely get local people applying for such jobs because they do not like the work and thus employment goes to those who want, need, apply for and stick around to do the work. The La Luna Dairy is not the only large-scale American operation in a bind trying to find enough employees. Without comprehensive immigration reform the struggle is likely to continue.

“If this can happen in Colorado, it can happen in any state with dairy operations,” Rifkin adds.

The major issue facing dairy farms is that lawmakers force them to use seasonal visas. Dairy work is not seasonal. It is year round and two to three times a day, 365 days a year. Seasonal visas do not meet these needs. According to National Milk Producers Federation’s Chris Galen, lawmakers do not understand the nature of the work because it is not the same as growing produce during a set season of the year. The closest the dairy industry has come to getting what
they need to operate effectively was the bipartisan agreement for comprehensive immigration reform cobbled together by a group of legislators known as the Gang of Eight – a measure that would have, had it passed in the House, created a visa program for low-skill agricultural workers.

Immigration reform affects how Americans live and work on a number of different levels. To legally work on a daily farm, immigrants need the right documentation. Without it, they cannot get nor keep a job if it is discovered they have forged papers. The reality is that work is available for them, but without the right papers, they either end up being fired or deported if a raid uncovers their legal status. Farmers are then left without workers. It is a losing game for both farm workers and employers and something needs to be done to resolve it.