Local farmers, others concerned for new order
Tonight — an announcement that could change the lives of millions of people in our country.
President Obama is expected to lay out steps for immigration reform, some of which include:
- Measures that could make as many as 5 million people eligible for work permits
- Shield them from deportation
- But none would have a path to citizenship
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says the President’s plan will focus enforcement efforts on immigrants who are serious criminals or were ordered to leave the country in the last year.
It’s an issue in the Local 6 region many feel passionate about, and one many believe the President’s plans could hurt local economy.
Many are concerned it will over-saturate the jobs pool that’s available to the migrant workers or negatively affect the workflow in place now.
According to a study by the University of Kentucky, Kentucky’s agriculture industry generates a total economic impact of $42.1 billion.
Local farmers depend on steady and reliable work to continue contributing to this economic impact, so many farmers enroll in a government program for labor.
It’s called the H-2A program where they can enroll willing and legal migrant workers to come help on their farms.
But local farmers, agriculture experts, and migrant workers themselves are concerned the new order could change the system.
Farmer and Cooperative Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Trent Murdock has worked on a tobacco farm all his life, and knows how important the workers’ work is.
He and his family own Murdock Farms, which employs 18 migrant workers, “I’ve grown up with them some of our guys so that my the same guys of had when I was 9-10 years old, ” says Murdock.
Workers like Jorge Ahumada Real have worked for Murdock farms for 15 years, and values the opportunities he’s afforded in this country, “All those people are looking for the best things for their families and they look for them here,”
A lot of the work that goes into tobacco- hanging and stripping is very labor intensive, but despite the working conditions ultimately it’s the wealth and opportunity he can bring back to his family, “I think they are people who are looking to do the best for their families. That they haven’t found the opportunity in their country.”
Murdock says his family values the work real and others lend , “It could definitely have a huge impact on the family farms here and if we don’t have the workforce to fall back on.”
As well as the greater Kentucky economy, “A lot of what goes on here is agriculture based on agriculture drive and it’s huge.”
There are many stipulations and regulations to both enrolling and participating in the H-2A program.
One of which is not negatively affecting the wages and working conditions of US citizens in the same situation.
The workers are granted a time period to work here under a visa-like situation where the local farmers provided their workers some form of room, board, and transportation.