SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Could California follow Utah on passing a guest worker program? Folks there are borrowing several ideas from Utah's House Bill 116 and putting them into a possible referendum. California has a lot at stake in the issue, because its agricultural industry depends heavily on migrant farm workers.
The measure would give guest workers an opportunity to live in California through a state-run pilot program.
The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes after noticing many California farms are suffering from the lack of workers. “There are many jobs people aren't willing to take and if it provides an income for them, I think it's a good idea,” said Amy Campbell, who lives in Salt Lake.
Latino rights advocates in Utah say the bill will face strong opposition in California, but it's sending a message to Congress. “It's a good way for the states to let the federal government know that we need to have some changes out there,” commented Tony Yapias.
Those opposed to illegal immigration say it's a good way to control who's going in and out of the U.S. “There is a huge problem there. We need to solve it one way or another. I think they should be legal, then I think it's good. We welcome those workers to come in,” said Bruce Thunell.
A spokesperson for the United Farmworkers Alliance tells me workers are hard to come by, because there's been a decline in illegal border crossings. “The United Farmworkers is supportive of this legislation, because this would expand the rights of farm workers,” said Maria Machuca, a spokesperson for the organization.
Although not a priority, immigration will be brought up again during the Presidential elections. “As it comes closer to the general election you will see a shift in attitude, because they need at least 40 percent of the Latino vote,” Yapias added.
If all goes as planned, the measure would be on the California ballot in November.