Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Farmers could benefit from new deferred action policy

The new deferred action policy, which is being implemented by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), could provide benefits to farmworkers.  The policy does not only benefit children who are in school or graduated from high school and who were brought into the United States by their parents; it also benefits farmworkers who are in the same circumstance.
That is going to provide some relief for our nation's farmers.  Alabama farmers, for example, thought they were electing conservative Republicans who would help them.  Instead the Republican-dominated Alabama Legislature passed the "toughest in the nation" immigration law whose disastrous effects on Alabama's croplands and family farms are just now becoming evident.
Farmers tell me that if they have a another harvest season like last fall, they will be forced out of the business and into bankruptcy.
The new deferred action program allows illegal alien children, who were brought into the United States before they reached the age of 16 and were younger than 31 as of June 15, when the deferred action policy was announced by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, have been living in the United States for at least five years, are in school, or have graduated and have not committed certain crimes.
Illegal alien children who meet the requirements above could still be eligible if they have not graduated from high school as long as they enroll in an adult education program, vocational training, or English language instruction.
The program could benefit a million or more of these children.
The Migration Policy Institute estimates that as many as half of the illegal alien children who could benefit from deferred action are laborers working in low-wage jobs.  Data from a National Agricultural Workers Survey shows that at least 54,000 farmworkers could qualify for the deferred action program and might be eligible for legal employment authorization.  Many of the eligible farmworkers have limited education, poor English skills, and may have never filled out an application for anything before.
While ICE officials have said they won't use information on the applications to remove (deport) the laborers, they would not comment on whether the information would be used to audit or prosecute employers.
The new deferred action policy does not provide lawful permanent residence or U.S. citizenship to any applicant for employment authorization.
These children did not have the capacity to break the law (a misdemeanor) when their parents or others brought them into the United States.  Changing the policy was the right thing to do.
Unfortunately, the union that represents some (not all) ICE employees doesn't think so.  The union is suing to block the program.

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