“Public Charge” Immigration Rule Disaster for Agriculture & Farm Workers

Earlier this month, CAFF & The Farmers Guild joined hundreds of thousands of other organizations and individuals across America to ask the Trump administration not to implement their changes to the “public charge” rule used to screen immigrant applicants for legal permanent residency, or a green card. Unfortunately, the administration ignored these requests. While immigration law says that applicants must prove they will not become a public charge (i.e. unable to support themselves), we deeply fear that what constitutes a “public charge” is dangerously open to interpretation, much to the detriment of America and to the hard-working immigrant community that makes our farms and our food system possible.

The administration will now consider whether applicants have used Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP/CalFresh), housing vouchers, and other forms of public assistance, and will assess their income, education, and English language ability when deciding whether to grant legal status. Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for most of these programs, but they often have citizen children who are eligible. We fear that the many mixed families with both legal and undocumented members will dis-enroll from these programs in fear that the undocumented members could never be legalized. In California, almost 90% of those likely to be affected are Latino, including many farmworker families. A massive dis-enrollment would cut off billions of dollars of federal assistance to California, impoverishing these families further as well as their communities.


Lawsuits against the administration to block this change will surely arise in the coming weeks, and it could be undone in a future administration. But this proposal is emblematic of the hostility of the current administration to non-white immigrants who are filling the difficult but vital manual labor jobs in this country, including farm work. CAFF & The Farmers Guild remains committed to immigration reform that allows for the legal entry of manually skilled workers needed in industries such as agriculture, and also allows for these community members to eventually gain legal permanent residency. The United States was built by immigrants from humble means who came here for the opportunity to work hard and get ahead. As we’ve done since 1978, we will continue to demand policies that respect and aid California farm workers.