The fear of immigration raids at local farms was heightened after President Trump recently tweeted about mass deportations. On Friday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Congressman Jimmy Panetta addressed that concern after a town hall in Watsonville.
About 50 people came out to see Agriculture Secretary Perdue and Congressman Panetta. They talked about the challenges facing the ag industry including managing water and trade uncertainty.
Following the town hall, Panetta spoke with reporters about what he calls the top concern locally, immigration.
"Especially here with our specialty crops on the Central Coast, where you can't just run a machine through the field, you need people who can harvest those crops," says Panetta.
Secretary Sonny Perdue says, "Agriculture needs access to a legal, reliable workforce. We know that we're not getting from domestic workers. These people want the opportunity to come and go, visit their families at home and come here and have economic freedom as well. So we hope that can be accomplished sooner rather than later."
Secretary Purdue says problems with the guest worker visa, known as H-2A, need to be fixed through comprehensive immigration reform. Congressman Panetta agrees adding the Blue Card bill he co-sponsored would help address undocumented farm workers who are already here.
"We're actually making sure that those who have worked here in agriculture get to stay here in agriculture with an opportunity to earn a citizenship," says Panetta.
Secretary Perdue says he will take what he’s learned from farmers on the Central Coast to help inform the Trump Administration’s policies.