Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

California Growers Push Guest Worker Program Illegal Immigrants Would Increase, Critics Say

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

California Growers Push Guest Worker Program Illegal Immigrants Would Increase, Critics Say

Article excerpt

California growers are urging Congress to pass a new temporary guest worker program that critics say would lead to a further influx of unlawful migrants.

The drive for a guest worker program comes 30 years after the end of the infamous "bracero" program that brought hundreds of thousands of workers from Mexico, many of whom ended up living in degrading conditions seared into the nation's memory in Edward R. Murrow's CBS documentary "Harvest of Shame."

But now, virtually all major growers groups in California are backing a program that would allow them to bring workers legally from Mexico and elsewhere to work temporarily in the fields.

"This is on our minds 24 hours a day, every day," said George Cunha, vice president of the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno, representing 1,000 family farmers in the San Joaquin Valley. "We need to have a mechanism to allow legal aliens to come into the U.S. after we have exhausted the means to get domestic workers into the industry."

Growers' efforts got a big boost Wednesday when a special panel on immigration set up by House Speaker Newt Gingrich endorsed the idea. Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., the panel's chairman, said he planned to introduce legislation on the subject later this summer.

But the growers' drive is likely to open up one of the most divisive debates in the immigration arena.

Barbara Jordan, chairwoman of the Commission of Immigration Reform, who has forged agreement with Republicans on almost every other issue, said last week that introducing a guest worker program would be a "grievous mistake. …

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