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Immigration reform may impact NC farm laborers

North Carolina has a booming agricultural base that has helped bolstered the state's economy for many years. While farmers in the state count on successful crops to keep their farms operating into the future, the success of those farms is often driven by the hard-working men and women who labor on the land as employees of the farm owners.

Today, it is not common for people born in the United States to seek out employment as agricultural laborers. A recent study by the Partnership for a New American Economy shows that this trend is the standard in North Carolina, which has caused many farm-based businesses to hire international guest workers to fill these areas of employment. Due to the challenges imposed by many guest worker programs, employers often hire undocumented international workers to fill laborer roles, but potential changes to immigration laws may offer such undocumented populations the opportunity to gain U.S. permanent residency after a set period of service in the agricultural industry.

Possible areas of immigration reform that could improve conditions for immigrant farm laborers in the United States include legalizing employment of international workers for agricultural labor jobs and allowing laborers to work for different employers during their periods of employment in the country. Also, undocumented international laborers could be granted the opportunity to apply for permanent visas to stay in the United States, which currently is not an option for individuals performing such jobs.

With the potential for undocumented agricultural laborers to gain permanent resident statuses in the United States comes the prospect of increased opportunities for family immigration for people employed in such jobs. As immigration reform continues to be developed at the state and national level, individuals hoping to find a fresh start in the United States may discover new paths to permanent residency should the agricultural laborer reforms become law.

Source: ABC News Univision, "Will Immigration Reform Help Immigrant Farm Workers?" Ted Hesson, May 15, 2013

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