Local immigrants and the law

news4Source: 13 WHAM News - Kristen Miranda (03-29-06)

Immigration laws are being debated at the national level as the US Senate works through recommendations to change the law.

The House already has its own version of a law with tougher penalties for illegal immigrants.

Librada Paz arrived from Mexico in 1989 to work in the farm fields. She said, “Our parents could not afford us, support us…I came with a big hope. I was lucky.”

She went from illegal immigrant to US citizen, but it took years of tough work for little money.

Rural Opportunities Inc. works with local farm workers. Fifty-thousand migrant workers tend farms in upstate New York. Half of them are undocumented, and that number is growing.

There are also immigrants working in construction, landscaping and hotels.

Stuart Mitchell, President of Rural Opportunities, Inc. said, “That’s creating a shadow workforce…yet they’re critical to the industry.”

Competing bills in the house and senate take controversial approaches to tightening immigration law.

Rural Opportunities Inc. supports the Senate plan which allows undocumented workers to eventually become US citizens.

The alternative, a bill in the House of Representatives, would label illegal immigrants as felons. This creates a problem for the growers who rely on this workforce.

The Senate and House would have to compromise on an immigration reform plan. Meanwhile the debate has prompted student protests across the country in support of immigrant rights.

It will likely be some time before this issue is settled.

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