DELANO, Calif. — Those in Kern County may have not been able to miss a bust of Cesar Chavez in the oval office when president Biden took office.
A local immigration lawyer says the First Lady’s visit to Delano Wednesday and the mentioning of a particular piece of immigration legislation may have shown that dedication further.
In her speech Wednesday, the First Lady specifically expressed support for the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021.
“With UFW's work, with your work. The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act, and this is a great first step,” said Dr. Biden.
That legislation was one of the main points of First Lady Dr. Jill Biden's speech on Wednesday, during her visit to Delano.
“And together, we are going to get this done. Si Se Puede!” said Dr. Biden.
Local immigration lawyer Mercedes Garcia-French says that the country has not seen immigration reform of this magnitude since 2013.
She says that the bill could provide a path to legal status for more than a million farmers in the U.S. and farm workers would be able to obtain temporary legal status through the certified agricultural worker visa.
The farmworker would also be able to qualify for a green card after successfully obtaining CAW status and demonstrating a decade of previous work in the agricultural industry.
“It’s going to provide a harmony pact for a lot of people not just in a lot of stress but a lot of uncertainty. They’re going to be able to legalize their situation on their own, and through their own amazing work,” said Garcia-French.
According to Garcia-French in order to be eligible farmworkers would have to prove that they spent at least 180 days over a two-year time period doing agricultural work.
These CAW visas would be valid for five years and would be renewable if they proved that they have continued working in agriculture.
Garcia-French also added that the bill will expand on the H2A visa program.
“This H2A visa allows somebody who works in the agricultural field to come to the U.S. for a seasonal time to help meet the shortage they have. So the program will expand and be permanent. it’s going to be more like an H2, H1B program. It’s going to have a three-year term and the wages will be fixed."
Garcia-French encourages undocumented workers to seek knowledge about the pathways to legal status, not only as an attorney but as an immigrant and citizen herself.