Federal immigration bill to impact agriculture industry

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Sean Powers/Illinois Public Media

Reyes Alvarez, 56, of Guatemala came to the U.S. illegally more than a decade ago so he could make enough money to support his family back home. Alvarez is an alias to protect his identity because of his legal status.

“The good thing here is that your job is secure, but over there you are the owner and most of the times you do not know if you will have success with the crops,” Alvarez said through an interpreter. 

The immigration bill that the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee took up Thursday includes a provision for farmworkers that shortens their waiting period for legal residency.

Alvarez lives in Champaign County, but commutes to another county, where he works at a dairy farm 48 hours a week, milking cows and cleaning their udders.

He makes roughly $10-to-$11 an hour. It is work he takes pride in doing even more than growing coffee beans, which is what he did in Guatemala.

A proposal in the U.S. Senate could change things for Alvarez, and the estimated 35,000 migrant and seasonal farmworkers living in Illinois illegally.

Depending on their work history, many of these workers could apply for a new ID called a “blue card.”

In order to get it, they would have to pay a fee and show they have paid taxes. After five years, blue card holders could then apply for a green card, which is about half the waiting period required for many other immigrants.

Read more at Illinois Public Radio 

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