July 13, 2020
Immigrant communities have played a crucial role in the cultural, economic, and political growth of our country. The farm and dairy economy especially depend on labor from migrant and immigrant people, often labor from undocumented people, who often live in precarious situations and receive little compensation or benefits. As recent headlines have shown, both pre-COVID and presently, there is an urgent need to take a stance on immigration that advocates for the human rights of migrants and immigrants.
After a year of deliberation, discussion, and editing, NSAC recently updated its Principles on Immigration and Agriculture to reflect the current priorities of the coalition in this area, including centering racial equity. The principles are a statement of ideals that the coalition wishes to see in immigration and agriculture policy and serve as a guiding framework for the coalition’s advocacy efforts in this area. We acknowledge that we are newcomers to the work of advocating for and with immigrant and migrant agricultural workers. NSAC is committed to following the lead of longstanding organizations in this space with whom we have relationships.
Racial Equity Impact of Immigration Reform
The updated draft of NSAC Principles for Immigration Reform and Agriculture reflect the Coalition’s growing commitment to racial equity. This ensures that the Coalition’s support of any immigration reform efforts aligns with our promise to advocate for an inclusive farm economy that supports the rights of its laborers.
Historically, farm workers have taken the brunt of a system that exploits their labor with little reward. Migrant workers, often undocumented, face poor working conditions with unbearable physical burdens in addition to unsafe exposure to chemicals from pesticides and other additives; low wages and repeated incidents of wage theft; sexual assault from employers and colleagues; poor housing that can lack basic utilities or meet federal requirements; lack of breaks; lack of access to shade, water, or bathrooms; and in some of the worst cases, forced labor (slavery). The lack of regulation often stems from migrant and immigrant workers’ inability to obtain legal status. Across the country, ICE has conducted workplace raids and arrested farm and food processing workers, creating an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty for farm workers and their families; as well as farmers who may lose their workers. Immigration reform therefore represents the first step in the path to access equal rights.
NSAC’s History on Immigration Policy
In 2013, NSAC developed 11 core principles that were formally adopted as NSAC’s position on immigration reform. In 2019 and again in 2020, the NSAC Policy Council approved Immigration and Agriculture as an Emerging Issue priority for the coalition. In the past two years, the coalition, via the Immigration and Agriculture Subcommittee, has educated itself on the policy proposals from organizations that have historically worked in this space, past proposals on immigration and agriculture reform from Congress, and administrative action related to immigration and agriculture. Through this outreach and education, the Immigration and Agriculture Subcommittee revised the principles, which were approved by the NSAC Policy Council.
The NSAC Principles on Immigration and Agriculture can be found here. NSAC looks forward to continuing our education of this work and standing in allyship with organizations committed to equity for immigrant and migrant agricultural workers.