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Programs > Farm Worker Justice > Legalization Process

Legalization Process

Comprehensive Legalization Program

The U.S. Bishops renewed their call for a comprehensive legalization program that would permit hard-working undocumented workers in agricultural industries to adjust their legal status to legal permanent residency. A legalization program would help stabilize the workforce, protect migrant workers and their families from discrimination and exploitation, and ensure that these workers are able to continue making contributions to society. It would also give them the opportunity to enjoy the benefit of labor laws and protections and to better assert their labor rights. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would support a legalization program that requires prospective employment in order to qualify for permanent residency, provided that the work requirements are achievable and verifiable for all eligible laborers.

They have been skeptical of large-scale "guestworker" programs, such as the Bracero program, which have led to abuse and exploitation of workers. They recognize that, as an alternative to widespread undocumented migration, a just and fair legal pathway must be established that protects the basic labor rights of foreign-born workers. A temporary worker program must guarantee wage levels and benefits that are sufficient to support a family, include worker protections and job and benefit portability that other U.S. workers have, and allow for family unity. This kind of program requires strong enforcement mechanisms to protect workers’ rights and to give them the option to become lawful permanent residents after a specific amount of time.

A comprehensive legalization program and a temporary or migrant worker program that protects workers and gives them a path to residency would help reduce the number of undocumented agricultural workers and ensure that they are treated with respect and dignity. Legalization of current and future workers would also help reduce the incidence of smuggling and the deaths of migrant workers. The U.S. Bishops welcome the ongoing efforts of representatives of farmworkers and agricultural employers to seek common ground on these issues and to bring about legislation that positively impacts the lives of farmworkers and their families.

For decades Catholic organizations have encouraged workable alternatives to the unjust status quo, which hurts both groups and diminishes us as a nation. We continue to oppose any program that lacks adequate, effective, and enforceable protections for workers and fails to give them an opportunity for permanent residency and an option for citizenship if they so choose.

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