Congressman Zeldin Discusses Immigration Reform at Farm Bureau Meeting

Image courtesy of Riverhead News-Review

Congressman Lee Zeldin visited the Long Island Farm Bureau’s annual breakfast meeting on Saturday, April 1st, at its headquarters in Calverton. During his talk with the bureau’s members, farmers discussed concerns about the President’s policies on immigration reform, particularly work authorization and the ability to hire enough workers to properly plant and harvest crops.

Congressman Zeldin said he believes immigration reform within the country will be easier to pass once the federal government increases “border security and interior enforcement.” He explained to those at the meeting, “Then you’ll have more support for what to do with the people who are here illegally right now.”

Jim Glover of Glover Perennials in Cutchogue said his biggest concern is how President Trump’s immigration policies are affecting his ability to hire workers. “I don’t have enough help for my business,” Mr. Glover said. “I can’t even think about expanding my operation in the area which I grow my perennials because of the scary situation in this country with immigration.”

Some participants discussed enhancing the H-2A visa program, a government program which provides temporary work authorization for agricultural workers, as a solution. A Farmworker Justice report highlights how violations of the worker’s rights “are rampant and systemic” as it “frequently approves illegal job terms in the H-2A workers’ contracts” among other abuses. Additionally, the majority of immigrant farmworkers are not a part of the H-2A program.

Nathan Berger of the Rural & Migrant Ministry, who was not present at the meeting, told Long Island Wins how the farmworkers’ rights organization views some of the ideas expressed during the meeting:

“As farmworker advocates, we agree with the Farm Bureau that immigration reform is needed. The guest worker program should be expanded in a responsible way that allows workers to travel between the US and their home country. We would be remiss without saying that the current guest worker program is ripe with issues and often guest workers and temporary workers are afraid to speak out against unfair labor practices under it’s structure. Importantly, the H-2A program – which employs around 4% of our nation’s farmworkers – does not resolve the issues that current undocumented farmworkers in the US face.  Families are living in fear of deportation under a Trump presidency. We vehemently disagree with Congressman Zeldin and the Farm Bureau that greater border enforcement and internal enforcement is needed. ICE is stoking up fear, especially in western and upstate NY by picking up farmworkers and breaking up families.

We argue to address labor shortages here in New York, comprehensive immigration reform is needed and also labor reform. Farmworkers’ inclusion in the federal and state labor law would attract more workers and make the job more sustainable.”

There were also protestors outside of the meeting rallying against Congressman Zeldin’s refusal to schedule a town hall to meet with his constituents.

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Sara Roncero-Menendez is the Online Editor for Long Island Wins. Prior to joining the Long Island Wins team, she graduate from NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and worked as a reporter for publications like Mashable, The Huffington Post, and PSFK. She became involved in immigration issues and advocacy while working towards her Masters degree at The University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign. After joining the Graduate Employee Organization Local 6300, she worked on helping international and undocumented students work with the administration to get fair financial aid and fellowship opportunities. Sara also works on issues of representation in mass media, including film and television, and works on media reviews and podcast.