As Congress gets set to
take on immigration reform, lawmakers from our region want to make sure the new
laws include protections for dairy farmers.
Migrant workers are often
the only people farmers can find to work low-wage dairy jobs. As many as 2,000
foreigners are believed to be employed on Vermont dairy farms. Many of them are
here illegally, facing the constant threat of deportation and leaving farmers
uncertain about their workforce. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, Rep. Peter
Welch, D-Vermont, and Rep. Bill Owens, D-New York, are trying to change that.
Their bill would add dairy farming to the list of businesses allowed to offer
temporary visas to foreign workers.
"So you'd have a
situation where the farmers knew that they could have steady workers who were
going to be there for a sustained period of time to milk the cows. The workers
who were there working would be totally legal and you take this program out of
the shadows," Welch said.
Under the proposal,
migrant workers could get three-year visas and have the option to renew for
three more years.
The idea has not gained traction in the past,
but the delegation is hopeful it will be included in any comprehensive