The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


Estimate: Executive order on immigration may apply to 450,000 farmworkers

President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration may relieve as many as 450,000 farmworkers and more spouses from fear of deportation — close to twice the original estimate, Farmworker Justice said today.

“The numbers of farmworkers who are likely to be eligible for administrative relief are very difficult to figure out. We’re preliminarily saying it could be 450,000, but acknowledge it could be substantially less or more,” said Bruce Goldstein, president of Farmworker Justice, a nonprofit organization that seeks to empower migrant and seasonal farmworkers to improve their living and working conditions, immigration status, health, occupational safety and access to justice.

Last week, United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez said Obama had assured him that “at least 250,000 farm workers, including at least 125,000 from California” would qualify for relief under the order that says the parents of children who are legally in the United States and who have been in the country for five years would not be deported.

“We’ve sought to estimate the number of eligible — including using the president’s criteria of roughly five years of residence and being parents of children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents — by using available data from the Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Workers Survey, but we don’t have the very most recent data and there are gaps in the data,” Goldstein said.

“These estimates do not include the spouses of farmworkers who do not perform farm work themselves but may be eligible for administrative relief.”

Goldstein said the estimates of the number of undocumented farm workers vary between 1.2 million and 1.68 million.

In a news release, Farmworker Justice commended Obama for issuing the executive order.

“With protection against the constant fear of deportation, farmworkers and other aspiring Americans will be able to contribute more fully to their communities and will be empowered in their workplaces,” the organization said.

But Goldstein added, “Even as we celebrate with those who will be eligible for relief, we are disappointed at the limits of the program. The eligibility criteria will deny administrative relief to many deserving farmworkers and their family members, including many long-time farmworkers who do not have U.S. citizen children.”

Meanwhile, the UFW said in a news release that Rodriguez had flown to Las Vegas with Obama on Friday for the rally in support of the presidential election order.

“Most Latinos see President Obama offering temporary administrative relief for millions of long-suffering immigrants — including at least 250,000 farm workers —on a par with earlier applications of executive powers by Presidents Lincoln and Truman,” Rodriguez said.

“Condemnations of those past uses of administrative authority were proven wrong. Today’s opposition to President Obama also puts the GOP on the wrong side of history.”

Rodriguez added that the executive order is only the first step in comprehensive immigration reform.

“Just as Congress had to pass a series of civil rights laws after President Truman's executive order integrating the Armed Services to reduce legal discrimination, so Congress ‎needs to pass comprehensive immigration reform to finish the work President Obama has begun,” Rodriguez said.

The UFW also announced that in Las Vegas Obama was scheduled to meet with Ana Rosa Romero, a farmworker and single mother of eight; Paul Chavez, the son of UFW founder Cesar Chavez and president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation; and UFW National Vice President Diana Tellefson Torres.

The UFW also noted that the organization had entered into a partnership with on a petition from Helen Chavez, widow of Cesar Chavez, asking MoveOn members across the country to thank President Obama for his executive order.

When Obama dedicated the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument at Keene, Calif., on Oct. 8, 2012, he promised Helen Chavez that he would act on immigration reform.

On Thursday night, as soon as White House speech ended, Helen Chavez wrote that “President Obama kept his promise to me and to the American people. … President Obama did the right thing on immigration. Please join me in thanking him for his leadership.”

Farm employers have said they believe the executive order will apply to only a small percentage of farm workers and that it will discourage Congress from passing comprehensive immigration reform.

Farmworker Justice