California Strawberry Growers Unite On Immigration Reform

Immigration Reform: What Now?

A broad-based group of elected officials and other community leaders joined local strawberry farmers at a rally on Tuesday aimed at raising awareness about the important role immigrants play throughout Central Coast communities, according to the California Strawberry Commission, event sponsor.

The rally provided momentum for a delegation of local strawberry farmers heading to Capitol Hill next week to brief members of Congress about the importance of immigrants and the need for achieving meaningful immigration reform, said Victor Ramirez, chair of the commission.

“Today we stand united as a community that embraces immigrants as an integral part of our economy, society, culture, and history,” said Ramirez.

“We are taking an active leadership role on this issue because strawberries remain the quintessential immigrant crop,” he continued. “For nearly a century, strawberry fields have provided a path to the American dream for countless immigrants from Europe, Japan, Mexico, and Laos. We want to keep this dream alive.”

According to the commission, about 65% of all California strawberry farmers are of Hispanic descent; of those, 25% worked their way up from field workers to own their own small farming operations. Demographically, another 20% of strawberry farmers are of Japanese or Asian descent.

Ramirez, a Salinas native, reported that he and other Central Coast strawberry farmers are scheduled to meet with members of Congress and White House staff next week. The delegation of growers is with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG), a trade organization representing nearly 400 technology and innovation companies, partnering for its Capitol Hill outreach efforts, according to Ramirez.

In a to joint letter being sent by the commission and SVLG to Congress, high tech and related emerging technologies in the next 12 years are anticipated to have an economic impact between $14 trillion and $33 trillion a year. Agriculture and related businesses account for about $10 trillion annually to the American economy; it employs just over one-sixth of the entire U.S. civilian labor force.

In addition to economic benefits to business, addressing immigration reform is critical for helping business solve many societal issues, including world hunger.

“We want to explain to lawmakers how our industries have been built in large part by immigrants, who remain essential to the future success of our nation’s largest sectors of the economy — agriculture and technology,” said Ramirez. “On a human level, immigration is about affording people the opportunity to work for a better life for their families and communities. Immigration is as American as apple pie and makes our nation stronger and a better place to live.”

According to Congressman Sam Farr, who represents the 20th District in California, “The voice of unity and encouragement from the local community is a real boost to me and other reform supporters here in Congress.”

Leave a Reply

3 comments on “California Strawberry Growers Unite On Immigration Reform

  1. Rod

    Go get them you guys! The more information we can get to them the more they can hopefully make sound decisions. Thank you guys for all you hard work and dedication. I would only hope other farmers and industries ( cardboard Companies, truck drivers,consumers, retailors, plastic manufacturing,tractor manufacturing, fertilizer Companies) people would speak up about this issue The Fiber and foundation of this country is based on an Agrian society. To allow for jobs and a stable economy. To import commodities from 3rd world countries does not benefit the American economy or the health of its people. It is cheaper product , but is it as safe for the people? Try to make them understand that when farmers put their finances on the line and their heart and soul into raising food and fiber for our country. And when farmers can not harvest their crops it is very dishearting. I do not know if they all understand that feeling. Good luck

  2. tom

    Good luck everyone,as a Florida grower who has already gone to Washington and sat with many congressmen and senators and basicly got nothing accomplished, but we need to keep up the pressure,you will be dealing with people that never worked a real job in their lives and it will get very frustrating listening to their answers,but Florida growers are 100% behind you but as we left them over a year ago the answer was don't worry nothing will pass(so true on that one),that isn't why we were there.

  3. Southern Tier Farmer

    “Today we stand united as a community that embraces immigrants as an integral part of our economy, society, culture, and history,” said Ramirez. I agree with him 100%. But I think he was also talking about those that pick in the fields in which case he needs to be aware of another word called "illegal". So with this immigration reform, aka amnesty, millions will come out of the "Shadows". So how many of those that will be granted amnesty will go back to picking those strawberries and how many will say "screw picking, I'm gonna get me one of those BETTER paying jobs in air conditioning in Silicon Valley?" What we need is to scrap the H2A program and institute a better one where someone can get an ID and come into the country for a LIMITED amount of time, (months), for the purpose of working in the fields and then have to go back home. If the person violates then they are arrested, deported immediately and banned forever from coming into the country.