Seventy percent of U.S. voters surveyed say they would support streamlined, sensible guest worker program allowing immigrant farm workers to enter country legally, industry group finds

IRVINE, California , March 27, 2012 (press release) –
Call information:
Wednesday, March 28
8 a.m. Pacific/11 a.m. Eastern
Call-in # 877-331-8458

Speakers:
Tom Nassif, president & CEO of Western Growers
Brian Nienaber, vice president at The Tarrance Group
Dave Puglia, Western Growers senior vice president of communications & government affairs
Ken Barbic, Western Growers senior director of federal government affairs

In a groundbreaking new survey on the public's views of agriculture and immigration, 70 percent of voters surveyed said they would support a streamlined and sensible guest worker program allowing immigrant farm workers to come into the country legally. In fact, a similar majority does not believe migrant workers cause unemployment or take jobs away from Americans. Those findings are from a new Western Growers survey conducted by The Tarrance Group, a well known and respected national polling firm.

The guest worker program in the survey includes: a requirement to first offer jobs to U.S. workers, restrictions on entry points and length of stay, market-based limitations on visas awarded, strict oversight of participating employers and withholding of worker payroll taxes. The program also allows existing workers to participate in the program without receiving amnesty.

"It is clear that American voters aren't caught up in the harsh rhetoric claiming immigration reform should be about punishing hard working farm workers or leaving American family farmers without a work force. Americans know that we need a practical and well-regulated national program that allows immigrants to come out of the shadows to work here on our farms," said Tom Nassif, Western Growers president & CEO.

"The fact of the matter is that Americans know farm work is and will continue to be done by foreigners, and they accept that reality. That's why an overwhelming majority of voters in both parties support a smarter way for the federal government to handle agricultural guest workers who help produce the healthy food on our plates."

The survey found overwhelming support from all likely voter groups including Republicans, strong Tea Party supporters, Democrats and Independents. Among self-identified Tea Party supporters, 70 percent surveyed are more likely to vote for a Congressional candidate if they support this sensible guest worker program.

More than 85 percent of survey respondents agree that both creating these legal channels for temporary immigrant farm workers, and developing the ability to register and track them will improve the nation's security and allow for better control of the border, according to the Tarrance Group survey data.

Seventy-eight percent of likely voters favored withholding Social Security and Medicare taxes taken from the paychecks of temporary migrant farm workers. As an incentive, the program would refund Social Security taxes to the workers after they return to their home country. Medicare taxes would go towards covering any costs of treating uninsured patients in local hospitals.

About Western Growers:
Since 1926, we have represented local and regional family farmers growing fresh produce in Arizona and California. Our members provide half the nation's fresh fruits and vegetables including a third of America's fresh organic produce. Some also farm throughout the U.S. and in other countries so people have year-round access to nutritious food. For generations we have provided variety and healthy choices as the first line of defense against obesity and disease. You could say we grow the best medicine in the world.

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