Northbound I-5, north of Highway 165, down to 1 lane due to an overturned big rig

Politics

Valley political spotlight turns to immigration

Monday, January 28, 2013

A team of Republican and Democratic senators unveiled a plan on Monday for immigration reform. The proposal includes a path to citizenship for some 11 million undocumented immigrants, increased border security, guest worker programs and a crackdown on businesses that employ undocumented workers.

That bipartisan push in the nation's capital is being watched closely by people right here in the Central Valley. Valley farmers say the majority of workers in Central valley fields harvest season after season without proper paperwork. "We do know that 90% of our workforce has document problems," said Nisei Farmers League's Manuel Cunha.

But Cunha says farmers have no choice other than hiring undocumented workers when faced with severe labor shortages. Now he and other farmers are backing the plan to create a guest worker program for jobs Americans are unable or unwilling to fill. "The people that have citizenship or maybe a residency will not do this type of work because it's too hard of work," said Cunha.

Monday's move by both Democratic and Republican Senators to create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants here in the United States is being applauded by agricultural leaders. But political experts say immigration reform will face a tough time -- especially in Congress.

Political Science professor, Bret Kincaid with Fresno Pacific University says Republicans on the far right won't back the proposal. Kincaid said, "There's a strong sense of well, these people violated the law. They broke our laws when they came into the country illegally and there's a strong conservative support for the law and it's very difficult for them to go ahead and give amnesty for people who broke the law."

But political analysts say moderate republicans will push for an immigration overhaul to gain the popular vote.

President Obama is expected to unveil his own plan for immigration reform on Tuesday.

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