Work Permits for Undocumented Farm Workers in California

Undocumented workers and their right to enter the country, remain in the country, and work here have become a major topic for the candidates for the Republican nomination for the upcoming presidential election. By now, everyone has heard Donald Trump’s feelings on the Mexican immigrants who enter this country each year, and we have heard the opposition to his comments and also from his supporters.

uscapitolRegardless of anyone’s personal feelings on issues of immigration and undocumented workers, there can be no question that California is very much in the middle of this issue, based upon the number of foreign born workers living in the state. Many of these individuals are working on the many farms throughout our state. According to a recent news article from the Los Angeles Times, California legislators are working on a measure that would specifically allow work permits to be issued to farm workers who are not legally in this country.

First, as our Los Angeles labor and employment lawyers can explain, there are different classifications for undocumented workers. If someone entered the United States with a visa, such as a student visa, a visa issues to a spouse of a student, a work visa, or other type of visa, and that visa has expired with the person still in the country, that person is said to be a visa overstay. In some situations, that may be corrected. However, if someone crosses the border without going through a United States Customs inspection station, that person is classified as an Entry Without Inspection (EWI), and they generally cannot convert their status from an undocumented worker to a legal resident.

However, there is no question that many undocumented workers live and work in California, and they may have children who were born in the United States and are thus natural born citizens. To help these families, California lawmakers who are upset with the federal government for not stepping in and taking action sooner are considering a piece of legislation that would allow that state to issue work permits to those who here illegally.

This is not the first time state legislatures have tried to enact such a measure. Three years ago, when they tried to do the same thing, they were opposed heavily by labor unions and immigrant rights groups who were both seemingly afraid these undocumented workers would take jobs from those who were legally in the United States, if they were given permits to work. These opponents also felt that a single federal law would be more appropriate than a state law on the issue. For these reasons, it was tabled and has been for the past three years until this recent revival. One of the reasons it is being brought up again is because Congress never took the action for which those in support of waiting for a national effort were waiting.

Those in support of the proposed legislation say that these individuals are already living in California and are not posing any danger to anyone. They also note that these undocumented workers have families to take care of, and it would be unfair not to allow them to work.   They also note that these work permits are to be given for farm work, and this an area where these undocumented workers are particularly needed.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

California measure would allow work permits for farmworkers here illegally, , July 12, 2015, LA Times

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