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Ag business opens door for immigrants

Jeff Tyler Mar 19, 2010

Ag business opens door for immigrants

Jeff Tyler Mar 19, 2010


Bill Radke: This weekend, more than 100,000 people are expected in Washington, D.C. They’ll be demonstrating for immigration reform. Of course, business leaders have a vested interest in reform, as well. And Marketplace’s Jeff Tyler says the issue has made strange bedfellows — particularly in agriculture.

Jeff Tyler: Traditionally, farm management hasn’t seen eye-to-eye with farm labor.

Manuel Cunha is president of the Nisei Farmers’ League in Fresno, Calif.:

Manuel Cunha: On other issues, we have some very strong opinions, just like they do. And we have not come up with any agreement on those other issues. But on immigration, we have.

On the other side, Giev Kashkooli is with the United Farm Workers. Of his union’s collaboration with ag business leaders, he says:

Giev Kashkooli: It’s unusual. It might even be unprecedented.

Both sides have endorsed a bill known as “Ag Jobs.” It would give farm workers a path to citizenship if they continue working in agriculture.

Shah Kazemi is CEO of Monterey Mushrooms. He says immigration reform is vital for his industry.

Shah Kazemi: Despite high unemployment rate, we still have a hard time finding qualified people to pick our crops.

Kazemi is sponsoring two farm workers to go to the immigration reform rally in Washington. Some members of Manuel Cunha’s farmers’ association are also paying for laborers to make the trip. But Cunha won’t say which farmers, and they won’t talk publicly.

Cunha: They can’t, because they’ll be retaliated against.

Cunha’s been on the receiving end of anti-immigrant vitriol.

Cunha: I’ve had em tell me personally that I was responsible for a policeman’s death by illegal aliens. “And you’re going to pay for that.”

Undeterred, Cunha will travel to Washington next week. Ag business leaders will press Congress to pass the Ag Jobs legislation.

I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

Radke: Tune in to Marketplace Money this weekend to hear Jeff’s report about some of the Latino fundraisers for the march on Washington.

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